10/14/21   USMNT Wins 2-1 in Columbus, Indy 11 Host Louisville Sat 7 pm, CHS Regional Finals Sat at CHS, US Ladies Thur 8 pm ESPN, Champions League Tue/Wed

High School Regional Finals CHS Boys & Girls at Home Murray Stadium this Saturday

The #3 Ranked Carmel High Girls defeated Brownsburg 3-0 on the road Wed with a couple of Assists by former Carmel FC star Emily Roper to advance to the Regional Finals Saturday at Murray Stadium where they will face East Central at 3:30 pm.  #2 Homestead downed #1 Noblesville 4-2 to advance to the Finals at Kokomo.  The Carmel Boys defeated Avon 3-1 at Avon to advance to the Regional Championships at 1 pm on Saturday at Murray Stadium.   Tickets for the games are $8 and available here. The Cathedral girls face Brebeuf Sat at 4 pm at Bishop Chatard.

US Wins 2-1 in Columbus – stands in 2nd in Concacaf standings 6 games in

The Youngest ever group to start a US Qualifier rallied from an early goal down to win 2-1 in front of a wild crowd at the Fabulous new Columbus Crew Lower.com Field.  I was part of that crowd along with my neighbors Partha and Ed – check out the pics.

Barcelona Defender Sergino Dest scored a screamer to tie the game up in the first half before Lille’s Tim Weah’s 2nd half goal to put the US ahead for good.  Coach Berhalter returned home to the place he once coached the MLS Crew and started his former Goalkeeper Zach Steffan in net for the first time in the Qualifiers.  Listen I had no issue with Steffan in goal here and he played fine overall.  The backline was solid with the return of Dest and Robinson on the edges and Miles Robison in the middle along with surprise starter Hoffenheim centerback Chris Richards.  Richards definitely had issues with turnovers at times – and showed why he’s probably 4th in the pecking order of Center Backs – while Miles Robinson again proved why he should NEVER not be on the Field at Centerback for the US again for the next 15 years – he was a rock back there.  Dest of course gave up the first cross that led to the Costa Rica goal before showing his offensive swerve with his game tying goal. He is honestly the flashiest player (check this rebono from Wed Destinho)  the US has produced – can tell he plays for Barcelona.  Meanwhile Antonee Robinson showed he is far and away our best left back option with his continued runs into the offense with solid cover on defense.  

Speaking of cover – is there any doubt who the MVP and true Captain of this team is – Tyler Adams controls the game from his Dmid #6 slot and continues to prove we are simply not the same team without him.  In the middle I thought Weston McKinney was solid if not unspectacular-he still disappears for entire portions of the game – and needs to press his will on the game more in my opinion.  One of the biggest finds this year by Berhalter to me is Yanus Musah.  The 18 year-old Valencia man is simply made to play in our midfield when McKinney and Adams are on the field too.  Musah’s ability to move the dang ball forward instead of backwards (Roldan, Bradley, ) is what sets him apart.  He really runs at the defense and breaks them down – and even though he hasn’t mastered the perfect pass yet – you can see he’s thinking it – the kid is 18 – and he really makes this US team better! 

Speaking of making us better – Brenden Aaronson is the next coming of Landon Donovan – period.  He’s going to be that good – and at just 20 years old he’s only going to get better.  He runs forever – with a constant motor – and already you can tell he’s reading the game better after just a few months at Champs League side Salzberg.  Honestly seeing as Pulisic is always injured – having Aaronson to fill in the 5 out of 10 games that Christian doesn’t play is a nice safety net – and if Christian is healthy – Aaronson is a super 2nd half sub on the opposite side.   The opposite side (right wing) was the key position in my mind this game as Tim Weah (subbing for late scratch Paul Arriola) turned in a man of the match performance.  His lightning quick bursts down the line were impressive finally leading to the 2nd half winning goal.  Thank goodness fate stepped in and kept Berhalter from screwing this up!! 

Speaking of Berhalter – I take my shots at him – and yes he seems to make some INTERESTING decisions sometime – but folks saying this was a do or die game for him are just flat stupid!  All the guy has done is win 2 straight trophies using 2 completely different teams while beating our archrivals Mexico each time in the process.  He’s invited more players – young players into camp than the 3 previous coaches combined – while only losing 3 games in the process.   Yes Berhalter is trying to change the way the US plays – he’s trying to get this young talented team to possess the ball and control the tempo – something NO OTHER US TEAM – has ever done even against the Minnows of CONCACAF.  We should absolutely control the possession against every team in CONCACAF except perhaps Mexico.  But switching to this style of play takes talented players who can pass and control the ball – something the young guys seem to have. He just started the youngest ever team to play a qualifier and won.  This team is the Golden Generation – and I for one think Berhalter is doing a fine job bringing this young team along.  I can honestly say that every player who started tonight – could well be on the squad in Qatar and 4 years later in the US – in fact in 2026 many of them will really be hitting the prime of their careers.  This team is building for the future – just like Berhalter is.  He’s learning on the job- he makes mistakes along with way – but overall this team is trending up.  We are the highest we have been ranked in forever – and this team will qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.   Oh and Cudos to ESPN on Wed night – solid ½ pregame showing and decent 15 minute postgame –in wasn’t Paramount plus’s fantastic coverage with a 1 hr lead in and outtro- but it was better than normal. 

The Ole Ballcoach is desperately looking for Mexico vs USA tickets next month in Cincy – if you have a line on tickets please let me know.  1, 2, 3, 4 tickets – willing to pay over price

2022 WCQ Standings

TEAMGPWDLGDP
Mexico6420+714
United States6321+511
Canada6240+610
Panama622208
Costa Rica6132-16
Jamaica6123-45
El Salvador6123-55
Honduras6033-83

Champions League is Back Tues/Wed –Paramount+  US Players Abound

Looking ahead to Champions League this week finds Americans in darn near half the games which are on Paramount – with the Golazo Show covering all the games on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm Tues/Wed.  (See full schedule on the OBC) Wednesday 6 of the 7 games have American’s headed by Salzburg and American winger Brendan Aaronson vs Wolfsburg and Centerback John Brooks at 12:45 pm.  Tuesday the big Game is PSG vs RB Leipzig with American coach Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams on Paramount+ at 3 pm along with Liverpool traveling to Atletico Madrid also at 3.  You have to see this Trick Shot by Dortmund’s Haaland.

US Ladies Play Thurs Night ESPN– Carli Lloyd’s Last Games

The US 2nd Leading Scorer of All time will lace them up for the USWNT just 2 more times as they play South Korea Thurs night on ESPN then Tues night on FS1. 

US Ladies Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 6), Adrianna Franch (Kansas City NWSL; 9)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 76/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 41/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville; 4/0), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 36/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 147/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 195/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 60/0)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 104/23), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 64/16), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 10/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 30/4), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 19/2)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Arsenal, ENG; 179/36), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 314/134), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 188/114), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 65/18), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 185/61), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 8/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 42/13)

Indy 11 face Louisville at Home Sat 7 pm My TV 23

Indy Eleven could put a nice little feather in its 2021 cap by taking the season series against Louisville outright for the first time with a win on Saturday at 7 pm.  Tickets are still available.  Playoff chances are slim to none for the 11 so this might be the last real chance to salvage something out of the season by knocking off their heated rival Louisville.  Sat night is Breast Cancer Awareness Night – Real Men Wear Pink !!  – In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a limited amount player worn and signed warm up jerseys will be available for purchase at the game (while supplies last). Portions of the proceeds will support American Cancer Society and Indy Eleven Foundation.  Pink Tshirts and Scarfs will also be available. 

The BYB is Hosting the Annual ChILI COOK-OFF will be from 4:00 PM  6:00 PM before the game in the BYB Lot.   

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Sat 10/16    (American’s in Parenthesis)

9:30 am ESPN+            Freiburg vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

9:30 am ESPN+            Union Berlin vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

10 am USA                   Leicester City vs Man United

11 am beIN Sport        Lille (Weah) vs Clermont

12 Noon NBC               Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

High School Regional Finals CHS Boys 1 pm & Girls 2:30 pm at Home Murray Stadium this Saturday

7 pm ESPN+ TV23        Indy II vs Louisville 

10:30 pm EPSN+          LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Sun 10/17   

9 am NBCSN                 Everton vs West Ham

930 am ESPN+             Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich

11:30 am NBCSN         NewCastle United vs Tottenham

1 pm ESPN               NY Red Bulls vs NYCFC

2 pm CBSSN                 NC Courage vs NY/NJ Gotham FC  NWSL

2:45 pm Paromout+    Juventus (McKennie) vs Roma

3 pm ESPN+                  Barcelona (Dest) vs Valencia (Musah)

7 pm Paramount+        Houston Dash vs Portland Thorns

Tues 10/19 – Champions League

10 am Paramount+      Celtic vs Ferencaros  (Europa)

12:45 Paramount+      Beziktas vs Sporting CP

3 pm Paramount+        PSG vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm Paramount+        Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool

3 pm Paramount+        Porto vs Milan

3 pm Paramount+        Brugge vs Man City (Stefan)

Wed 10/20 – Champions League

10:30 am Paramount+ Spartak vs Leicester City (Europa)

12:45 Paramount+   Salzburg (Aaronson) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)  

12:45 Paramount+      Barcelona (Dest) vs Dynamo Kyiv

3 pm Paramount+        Lille (Weah) vs Sevilla  

3 pm Paramount+        Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Malmo  

3 pm Paramount+        Young Boys (Pfuk) vs Villareal  

3 pm Paramount+        Man United vs Atalanta  

3 pm Paramount+        Zenit vs Juventus (McKinney)  

Thurs 10/21   

12:45 Paramount+      Vitesse vs Tottenham

8 pm ESPN           USA Women vs Korea  KC

Tues 10/26   

8 pm FS1                       USA Women (Carli Lloyd last game) vs Korea  KC

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo. Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA


USMNT World Cup qualifying: What’s working and what’s not through six games
 
Bill Connelly  ESPN

U.S. reliance on youth pays off as Dest, Weah lead comeback win  ESPN hJeff Carlisle

A Lot of Fight, A Little Fate, and Course Correction for US Team – Brian Straus SI  


USMNT vs. Costa Rica takeaways: Tim Weah, Sergiño Dest spark comeback in qualifier
LA Times
USMNT player ratings from Dest-led comeback win over Costa Rica

Gregg Berhalter, USMNT stars applaud comeback: ‘The mentality is right’

U.S. men’s national soccer team erases early deficit, beats Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying

Soccer’s biggest clubs offer U.S. players something MLS can’t: a path to Europe

USA Ladies

USWNT announces roster for October friendlies

US Roster
2021 NWSL Timeline: Amid league failures, players reclaim control

Embattled NWSL moves championship game from Portland to Louisville

NWSL championship final moved from Portland to Louisville after player complaints

USL’s new women’s league announces first president

Abby Wambach says she ‘failed to speak out’ as a player

Tobin Heath, Catarina Macario of USWNT score in Women’s Champions League

World Qualifying


Canada are stronger than ever – and the best may be yet to come

England held as Hungary fans clash with police

Denmark qualify for 2022 World Cup

Germany qualify for Qatar 2022 but Belgium made to wait

Japan boss urges team to build on crucial World Cup win, Son scores again

World

Neymar has ‘many years’ left at the top, says Pochettino
Mbappe takes centre stage for PSG in absence of Messi, Neymar

English Premier League betting: Beware of the international break 

Indy 11

USL CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP | BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC 3 : 1 INDY ELEVEN

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN VS. LOUISVILLE CITY FC – OCTOBER 16, 2021

INDY ELEVEN EARNS INDIANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, WELLNESS COUNCIL OF INDIANA GOLD COVID STOPS HERE DESIGNATION

Indy 11 Tickets

Soccer on TV: Leicester City-Manchester United and a Bundesliga first-place battle bring European club soccer back to action

Plus, find all the info you need to watch the big games in Italy, Spain, MLS and the NWSL.Oct 14, 2021   The Philly Union – The Goalkeeper 

Leicester City vs. Manchester United

Saturday, 10 a.m. (USA Network, Universo)

Leicester has endured a wobbly start to the Premier League season, with recent ties against lowly Crystal Palace (owned by the Sixers’ Josh Harris) and Burnley. The Foxes have the talent to get back on track in $33 million striker Patson Daka (a former teammate of Brenden Aaronson at Red Bull Salzburg) and midfielders Harvey Barnes, James Maddison, and Youri Tielemans  Philly

Manchester United, of course, has Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba. The Red Devils are two points out of first, and probably won’t top the table after this weekend because the other top teams all have winnable games. But they have the look of title contenders.

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich

Sunday, 9:30 a.m. (ESPN+)

At just 18 years old, Florian Wirtz has fired Leverkusen into a first-place tie atop the Bundesliga with Bayern. Can the challengers dethrone the nine-time reigning champions and win their first German league title since 1979? This game will tell us if they’re for real.

Newcastle United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Sunday, 11:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Telemundo)

Newcastle plays its first game since the club was bought by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which everyone involved — including the Premier League — insists isn’t the same thing as the Saudi government. But PIF chair Mohammed bin Salman is the country’s crown prince, deputy prime minister, and minister of defense.Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were among many vocal critics of the deal. Amnesty accused the Premier League of “allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets.”Bin Salman has long been accused of ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khasoggi, though he denies it; and the country’s government has a reputation for abusing rights activists and quashing dissent.For many Newcastle fans, though, all that seems to not matter. On the day the deal was sealed, a big crowd celebrated outside the Magpies’ St. James’ Park Stadium. Some fans chanted “We’ve got our club back!” after longtime owner Mike Ashley, whose reign had Newcastle as one of England’s most glaring underachievers, departed.

New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC

Sunday, 1 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

A few weeks ago, the Red Bulls were presumed to be too far out of the playoff race to make a serious run. They’ve since proven that presumption wrong, charging up the standings with a six-game unbeaten run. Two of those games were against NYCFC. A win or tie here would make this year the first since 2015, the Pigeons’ debut season, that the Red Bulls haven’t lost against their Hudson River Derby rivals.

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READ MORE: The rest of this weekend’s MLS schedule

North Carolina Courage vs. Gotham FC

Sunday, 2 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Thanks to having two games in hand, Gotham has not just a shot at a playoff berth, but an outside chance at a first-round bye if it can win out. On paper, this is the hardest of the four remaining games for Carli Lloyd, Margaret Purce and company. The remaining three include a visit to last-place Kansas City and a home-and-home set against next-to-last Louisville.

Juventus vs. Roma

Sunday, 2:45 p.m. (Paramount+)

Juventus seems to finally be up off the mat in Serie A, in seventh place with four straight wins after starting the season with two losses and two ties. Roma is in fourth place thanks in part to English forward Tammy Abraham, formerly of Chelsea. This will be a measuring-stick game for both teams.

Barcelona vs. Valencia

Sunday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest and Valencia’s Yunus Musah starred for the U.S. men’s national team in Wednesday’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Costa Rica. They might get this game off to rest, but Barcelona can’t take it too lightly. Archrival Real Madrid comes to town next weekend.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend’s La Liga schedule

Venezia vs. Fiorentina

Monday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN+)

Though Gianluca Busio only got limited playing time in the U.S.’ recent World Cup qualifiers, he looked great when given the chance. Now he returns to Italy to help Venezia continue its quest to avoid going back down to Serie B in its first top-flight season for 19 years.

By the way, if you’re a soccer fashionista, Venezia’s viral-sensation jerseys are coming back in stock. You’ll have to fork over $127, including all the shipping fees, you can’t get customization, and you might also have to gamble on getting the size right. But the jerseys are really sharp.

United States comes back to beat Costa Rica as Sergino Dest strikes

The United States came from behind in impressive fashion to beat Costa Rica in its CONCACAF World Cup qualifier at the new home of Columbus Crew on Wednesday night.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter changed his lineup significantly, inserting goalkeeper Zack Steffen among nine changes to the starting 11 following Sunday’s 1-0 loss away to Panama as his team looked to pick up a needed three points against a veteran Costa Rica team. The Americans gave up a first-minute goal to Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller, but drew level in the 26th when Sergino Dest buried a gorgeous shot from distance on the counter-attack to beat Keylor Navas.”I was like, I have to shoot it,” Dest said. “I was just so happy We needed that goal. It was a really important goal. Right now we are on track.”The home side continued to pile on the pressure after conceding early, but Costa Rica did not go away and saw a penalty shot waved off as half-time approached when Chris Richards appeared to trip up Johan Venegas in the area after a poor giveaway by the U.S. defense.A Costa Rica own goal saw the U.S. take the lead after the hour mark, when Timothy Weah‘s well-struck shot from a tight angle came back off the post and bounced off backup keeper Leonel Moreira, who came on for the injured Navas, before trickling into the net.Paris Saint-Germain keeper Navas injured his right adductor muscle and was replaced by Moreira at half-time.The U.S. had Costa Rica scrambling after it took the lead and saw several near chances go before seeing out the victory to move up to 11 points from six matches in the team’s quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.The three points was all the more impressive given the Americans fielded their youngest lineup ever in a World Cup qualifier, averaging 22 years, 61 daysNext up for Berhalter and the Americans is a huge Octagonal match against Mexico on Nov. 12 in Cincinnati (watch live on ESPN2 at 9:10 p.m. ET). The U.S. will visit Jamaica four days later.Over its final six matches, the U.S. must travel to Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica.

USMNT Is Positioned Well for Mexico, World Cup Qualification After Roller-Coaster Week

Two home wins sandwiched a dreadful road defeat, but the key moments tilted in the favor of the U.S., which is left with a positive World Cup qualifying outlook.

AVI CREDITOR  SI 

n such an intense, fast-moving period, it’s easy to become prisoner of the moment.As it relates to the U.S. men’s national team and its quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, that means, for those on the outside, contemplating a roller coaster of what-ifs, worst-case scenarios and knee-jerk reactions that may either be lacking the context of the bigger picture or may not entirely be rooted in reality—at least not with the full complement of evidence required to come to such conclusions. For those on the inside, it means tuning all of that out as much as possible and keeping one eye on the big picture and the other on what’s right in front of you.“What I try to avoid, especially with the team, is putting pressure on them because of external forces. We have enough internal pressure that we want to play a certain way. We want to play well and we want to win games,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said following Wednesday night’s 2–1 win over Costa Rica. “But all of World Cup qualifying is difficult. All of World Cup qualifying is challenging. And sometimes I feel like people forget that and people think it’s a cakewalk and we’re going to play the youngest team in the history of U.S. Soccer in a game, and we’re just going to breeze through these games. It’s not realistic.”The U.S. most certainly did not breeze through this October window, but on the surface, a six-point haul after home wins vs. Jamaica and Costa Rica and a lifeless road defeat to Panama represents another satisfactory effort in the grand scheme. Somewhat ironically, though, it was a series of individual moments that allowed the U.S. to emerge from the October window in good shape. The victory over Costa Rica was defined by a number of instants that went the U.S.’s way (after the first-minute calamity, that is). There was the 13-pass sequence that led to Sergiño Dest’s goal (and yes, the sequence nearly broke down after the first few passes, and you could argue that Tim Weah should’ve hit an early, first-time cross to Dest, but the play wound up with Dest’s banger of a goal, so all of that is moot).There was the potential-PK-that-wasn’t on Chris Richards’s sliding challenge on Jonathan Moya (Berhalter may wind up grateful after all that Concacaf does not have VAR available in this competition). There was Miles Robinson’s awful giveaway and heroic recovery tackle (he’s fortunate that was Bryan Ruiz who made the steal and not someone with the pace of, say, Alphonso Davies). There was the injury to Costa Rica star goalkeeper Keylor Navas that at least raises the idea that perhaps Weah’s shot that resulted in the game-winning own goal could have had a different fate. And there was the pregame injury to Paul Arriola that resulted in Weah’s starting to begin with. There’s no telling what Arriola could have or would have done in that place, but Weah wound up as one of the U.S.’s top performers on the night. Often, a complex picture boils down to the fine margins, and on Wednesday, the majority fell in favor of the Americans.So the U.S. moves forward as part of a trio of teams beginning to separate from the pack. The Concacaf Octagonal isn’t halfway done just yet, but the three 2026 World Cup hosts—Mexico, the U.S. and Canada—are positioned best to secure the region’s three automatic berths for the 2022 showcase. For the U.S., there’s a five-point buffer between its current standing and not making it to Qatar, though with road matches at Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica still to come, the hard part hasn’t yet hit.Since this is the first eight-team final round of Concacaf qualifying, there’s no previous data to draw upon to determine what would be a target number of points for the U.S. to hit to secure a top-three berth, but through six games, the U.S. is likely and roughly halfway to glory slightly less than halfway through the fixture list.There’s little time to rest on laurels, though. The home Mexico game is on tap next, and full focus will be on Cincinnati, where the U.S. can either pull even on points with El Tri atop the table or find itself dragged back closer to the middle of the pack, allowing the external doubts to creep back in ahead of a trip to Jamaica. Barring injuries, the U.S. will have a full deck for the Mexico match. It was imperative that Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, the indispensable midfielders they are, avoided picking up second yellow cards in qualifying Wednesday that would have rendered them suspended (Adams looked to be close to receiving one for dissent after Costa Rica’s opening goal, with the referee going to his pocket before ultimately not doling one out). If Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna are fit to rejoin the team—and take a second to consider that the U.S. has secured 11 points from six games by getting just one match out of Reyna, just over one and a half from Pulisic and one and a half from imposing center back John Brooks—then Berhalter may actually have a full complement of top talent for his first time as U.S. coach. Given that November’s is a more traditional two-game window and not a three-game one, squad rotation will be less of a requirement as well.All eyes will also be on the U.S. goal. Zack Steffen was handed the start in Columbus, and the first-minute fiasco made for a clinic of second-guessing. Did Berhalter need to make a change in the back and open himself up to the potential for criticism when Matt Turner had been so steady? In the long run, it may prove that getting Steffen that game has tremendous value, and while it’s nice that on one hand the U.S. feels it has two goalkeepers it can turn to in big spots and feel equally at peace, it helps when there’s consistency at the back. Steffen lost the No. 1 job due to injury and COVID-19, so in one sense it’s unfair to take it from him permanently, but Turner had deputized well in the previous five games, coming up with pivotal moments that are likely to be overlooked when qualifying is through, and, unlike Steffen, he plays regularly for his club. The scrutiny over the decision in goal doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.But that’s a question to be sorted in a few weeks’ time. For now, the U.S. has emerged from another grind of a week in a position of strength. It’s sandwiched in the table between Mexico and Canada, who remain the only unbeaten sides left in the region. Elsewhere, Panama remains equally capable of stifling top foes at home while struggling on the road. Costa Rica looks old and severely limited. Jamaica got the win it needed to remain alive and will hope that the likes of Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey come back next month to fortify the squad before it becomes too late. El Salvador is still a tough foe that has little to show for its efforts in the points column. Honduras is in last place and onto a new coach, its hopes of qualifying for a third World Cup in four cycles dwindling by the game.All things considered, the U.S. remains right where it needs to be to achieve its ultimate goal, and after all the angst, worry and hypothesizing over the last few days, that’s a fine place to reside.

United States reliance on youth pays off in comeback win over Costa Rica

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Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Sergino Dest and Tim Weah were making their way back to the United States bench after being substituted, the two offensive heroes pumped up the home crowd at Lower.com Field. Dest high-fived teammates, as well as a few fans. Weah found time to give his jersey to someone in the crowd. Even though there were about 17 minutes left in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, they both showed their exuberance and confidence that the U.S. could see out the rest of the match.

That the U.S. did, prevailing 2-1 over the Ticos to grab a vital three points in its World Cup qualifying quest. The energy displayed by Dest and Weah was fitting in that this was a match where youth triumphed over experience. The U.S. starting lineup, averaging 22 years and 61 days, was the youngest it had ever fielded in a World Cup qualifier. Costa Rica, meanwhile, put out a starting XI with six players over 30. And its youngest player, 27-year-old Keysher Fuller, was older than the U.S.’s oldest player, 26-year-old goalkeeper Zack Steffen. The difference became even more pronounced later in the game when 39-year-old forward Alvaro Saborio, 37-year-old midfielder Christian Bolanos and 33-year-old defender Kendall Waston all entered the match.The U.S. certainly showed its inexperience at times, not the least of which was falling behind with less than a minute elapsed on the clock. But the U.S. showed plenty of resilience in recording a win that likely puts it second in the Octagonal standings.”For us to be navigating through this CONCACAF qualifying — which is a bear, a monster — with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field today, particularly going down a goal, and then the second half being up a goal and managing the game really well,” said United States coach Gregg Berhalter after the match. “I mean, Gianluca Busio comes on, and he looks like he’s 30 years old. So I’m proud of the effort. The guys showed a lot of poise and they’re growing. They’re growing as a team.”The start couldn’t have been more inauspicious. Less than a minute into the match, Steffen — something of a surprise starter after Matt Turner had started the first five matches — came off his line to clear a through ball with his head, but it didn’t eliminate the danger. With the U.S. defense scrambling to get back in shape, Ronald Matarrita found a wide open Fuller at the far post to sidestep past Steffen.Yet this youthful U.S. team didn’t crumble. In fact, it immediately seized the initiative, and even as the U.S. looked overeager with some of its passing, it was first to a lot of second balls and put consistent pressure on the Costa Rica goal.

“We weren’t nervous at all,” Weah said. “Obviously it was a bummer to take the goal pretty early in the game. But we knew what our game plan was, and it was to expose their backline and I feel like we did that. The outside backs played a huge role today. The wingers played great. Everyone played great so it was us coming together and just staying focused and adding that intensity.”The fear was that with all-world goalkeeper Keylor Navas in net for the Ticos, it was going to take something otherworldly to get on the scoreboard. Dest delivered precisely that, taking a pass from Yunus Musah near the corner of the box, moving the ball to his supposedly weaker left foot and unleashing a rocket into the top corner that left Navas with no chance. Not even the fact that his shoelace was untied could stop him.”I think it was [Weston McKennie], he made the run in behind and the guy follows him, so there was space for me,” Dest said. “I just got put inside and I thought like the only thing I could do at the moment was just shoot it, because we had to score. We are 1-0 down, so I felt like you know, we needed this point so I was just trying to show it and it was an amazing goal.”A critical point in the match came at halftime when it was revealed that Navas had suffered an adductor injury and would have to be substituted for by Leonel Moreira. Without its talisman in net, the game was there for the taking.The U.S. eventually took advantage in the 66th minute, as Dest turned provider for Weah, whose tight-angled drive went off Moreira, hit the post and trickled in. It officially went down as an own goal, though Berhalter said he would try to get that changed.Still, it was a big moment for Weah, who only found out five minutes before game time that he would be starting after Paul Arriola was injured during the warm-up. And just prior to the goal he noticed he was about to be subbed out.”I saw [Matthew] Hoppe and DeAndre [Yedlin] on the sideline getting ready to come in, so I kind of had the idea that I was gonna get subbed out,” he said. “But my goal was just to stay focused on till then and it just so happened at the ball came out wide to Serge and I saw the run and I just hit it one time and it happened to go in. It’s just being focused in those moments.”It was a redemptive performance for the U.S. following last Sunday’s loss to Panama, but especially for Dest. Much has been expected of the defender, he of the Ajax and now Barcelona pedigree, yet he has endured a rollercoaster ride in qualifying, struggling during the last window, especially when playing on the left side of the U.S. defense. In this window, Dest succeeded in raising his level, and in this match, he was the difference-maker that fans and teammates alike expected.”It’s almost like the sky’s the limit for [Dest]. He could be as good as he wants to be,” said Berhalter. “You saw today with his attacking play, it’s unreal. For Serge it’s just hanging in there mentally, really pushing himself to be to be the best when he’s on the field.”Dest admitted that qualifying games in CONCACAF are “an eye-opener” and a different world from what he’s used to in Europe. He noted that the intensity is high, and the opponents are hardworking.”And it’s just physical,” he added.But Dest and his teammates are learning they can play that card as well. And they needed to use their physical attributes — and brains too – to get past the Ticos. One moment that crystallized the task facing the U.S. was when defender Miles Robinson gave the ball away in the second half, sparking Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz on an apparent breakaway. But Robinson ate up the yards in ravenous fashion and snuffed out the threat. Costa Rica just didn’t have the legs.In the process, the U.S. banished some ghosts too. It was the Ticos who sent the U.S. team’s qualifying effort during the 2018 cycle into a tailspin with a 2-0 road victory. Four years later, this Costa Rica team is clearly one that is in transition. But it’s a foe that still needs to be vanquished, and the U.S. this time protected its home turf.The win puts the U.S. second in the Octagonal standings, but the six points in this window are a smidgen less than what was expected, given that a draw in Panama was doable. And the road is going to get tougher. A Nov. 12 home encounter with bitter rivals Mexico looms, as does a road tilt against Jamaica, which looked revived in a 2-0 road win against Honduras. The U.S. will need to play with more consistency.  But so far youth has served the U.S. well, and at least for the moment, the qualifying campaign is back on track.

The USMNT and Balancing Momentum, Changes and the Big Picture

Wholesale lineup swaps led to a disjointed effort in Panama, but it’s all part of a long-term strategy. Whether it proves worthwhile is the lingering question.

AVI CREDITOR

 quick glance at travel options from Chicago, where U.S. Soccer is headquartered, to Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup, reveals that, as of Monday, there are very few nonstop flights. The vast majority of routes come with stops along the way, some that may not be the most direct or convenient. This is not meant to be a travel advisory for those looking to book plans for next November, but more so a roundabout, metaphorical way at stating that for the U.S. men’s national team, making it to Qatar quite clearly won’t be achieved via the most direct and desirable means.In theory, having a top-choice team available for every World Cup qualifying match would be great. In theory, having to confront schedule compression that jeopardizes the wellbeing and ability of players more than it has in the past wouldn’t be a factor. And in theory, the quest to sustain momentum would not be in direct conflict with what’s realistically required over the span of such a hectic week.That’s how the U.S. wound up arriving at Sunday night’s approach, where the impact of seven lineup changes became a prevailing theme following a 1–0 defeat in Panama that, again, has the spotlight squarely on the U.S. to respond in its next match. With Weston McKennie (muscle strain) and Antonee Robinson (COVID-19 travel protocol due to his club being based in the U.K.) not making the trip, two changes were already guaranteed, but taking it a significant step further wound up throwing off the balance of the team. As manager Gregg Berhalter said, the U.S. was not great in duels vs. Panama, and its spacing was all off. The Americans didn’t manage a single shot on goal, and their expected goals total, something Berhalter has used as a data point to defend previous results where the final scoreboard hasn’t been fully flattering, was a paltry 0.22. As Berhalter succinctly and accurately said amid more detailed and self-reflecting remarks, “We were poor.”“Looking at the game [vs. Jamaica] on Thursday in Austin and then the travel and then what we’re going to be dealing with here, the conditions, we wanted to be able to get fresh guys on the field,” Berhalter said. “You saw some of the guys that played in the game in Austin had a difficult time bringing the intensity that we needed. So we were hoping with this lineup that we were going to get that, get mobility, and we didn’t play our best. We had a number of guys that performed below expectations, and that’s part of it. It’s a young group. It’s about learning, regrouping and going from here.”Winning the Nations League and Gold Cup this summer with different squads perhaps instituted a false level of expectation that the U.S. could effectively swap out lineups on a wholesale level and have little to no drop-off. But there’s nuance that gets lost in that. Not every player can step in and replicate to the same effect, and the number of the switches isn’t necessarily as important as the specifics of who wound up starting. Beyond that, the stakes are significantly higher here, and it’s become clear (if it wasn’t already) that Tyler Adams’s presence on the field can have a domino effect on everyone else. Trotting him out for the entirety of all three games this month, as was the case last month, was untenable, though, Berhalter said.“Prior to this camp, Tyler hasn’t been playing regularly for his team,” Berhalter said. “He had a little bit of injury, he was in and out of the lineup, so now to ask a player who has not had any load or much load in the last three weeks, to go play three 90s, I wasn’t comfortable with it, and I’ll take responsibility for that. The good thing is he’ll be ready to go against Costa Rica, and he should have full power for that game.”The number of changes was significantly higher compared with some of the U.S.’s chief competitors. It’s not apples to apples given the number of variables in play, but Mexico, playing with the luxury of having two straight home games with no travel in between matches, made three lineup changes from its first match of this window to the second. Perhaps more appropriate as it relates to the U.S., Mexico made five swaps last month between matches at Costa Rica and at Panama, and Los Canaleros held El Tri to a 1–1 draw—and would’ve taken all three points if not for a late Tecatito Corona equalizer.Canada, facedwith the difficulty of playing two straight road games before heading home, made five lineup swaps Sunday night. Costa Rica, the U.S.’s next opponent, played on the road and returned home, making just three changes in between games and knowing full well that a flight to Columbus beckoned.Los Ticos were in a considerably more desperate position, though, carrying only three points into their fifth game and knowing that defeat to El Salvador on Sunday would have spelled early doom. As much of a greater margin for error as there may be in a round that features 14 matches instead of the previous 10, there is still a giant match-to-match swing when it comes to comfort level in the table, considering the stakes.The level of comfort for the U.S., which hasn’t had the services of the injured Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna for this full window, was different. Perhaps sitting atop the table entering Sunday’s game and having a slightly larger margin for error based on its most recent results, it felt able to take a calculated risk and make more sweeping changes, thinking that if it could steal a point or even all three in Panama that it’d be sitting pretty three days later vs. Costa Rica—and that even if it didn’t, it’d still be set up to succeed in its next match with a more full-strength squad. There’s a big picture to take into account, even if a quick-trigger fan base demands excellence on a game-to-game basis. The U.S. demands that of itself, too, but the practicality of executing that given all the constraints and long-term planning is not always considered. There’s no doubt that Berhalter and the U.S. got it horribly wrong Sunday night, but there’s little time to dwell on it when the next match and next chance to spin the narrative is less than 72 hours away.“I think the way to look at it—and this is how I looked at it—now it obviously doesn’t look like the best choice, but I think we have to wait until Thursday,” Berhalter said. “Because if we would’ve played the same players from the last game—first of all, two of them weren’t even here, so that was going to be impossible—but if we would’ve played the same players in this game, I’m not sure we would position ourselves in the best way to win again on Wednesday. The conditions that we’re dealing with here, the travel, with the weather, made it complicated. And we had to make I guess a somewhat risky decision, and the good thing is we’re still in second place.”He’s right about being in second place, but in such a congested table over a third of the way through the qualifying competition, the sixth-place team is only three points behind. And the problem with enduring such a self-inflicted stumble and coming up on the wrong end of that calculated risk is that the U.S. has put itself into a similar position as it did last window. It needs a win in its final match to stabilize its table standing and enter the next window feeling good about the big picture and its overall itinerary on what it hopes is a winding road that ultimately leads to Doha.“Our goal is to go into Wednesday’s game and get three points,” Berhalter said. “We take every game as it comes, and Wednesday is another opportunity to get three points and further establish our position in the group.”

Lot of Fight, a Little Fate and a Course Correction for USMNT

The U.S. men’s national team’s World Cup qualifying campaign has proven to be about a young group’s capacity to respond, and that was on display in a second window-salvaging win in as many months.

BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

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OLUMBUS, Ohio — The tifo hoisted by the American Outlaws behind the north goal of Lower.com Field was still fluttering in the evening breeze when disaster struck.“Our Future Is Now,” the massive banner read. But just 60 seconds into Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, the U.S. men’s national team’s future appeared imperiled. A short clearance by goalkeeper Zack Steffen, a somewhat surprising choice to start in place of workhorse Matt Turner, helped spark a Tico attack that ended with a slow, seeing-eye shot from defender Keysher Fuller bouncing in to Steffen’s right. And with that, the U.S. was losing this mostly must-win match before the smoke from the pre-game pyrotechnics had finished drifting into the Columbus night.This month’s three-game qualifying window was about responses. The U.S. had to respond to the absence of its two most dangerous attacking players, the injured Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna. It had to respond to Sunday’s loss in Panama, which was probably its worst performance under coach Gregg Berhalter. And it had to respond following that stunning first-minute breakdown. That’s a test for any team. And it represents an especially intriguing challenge for one so inexperienced and young. The starting lineup Berhalter chose to face Costa Rica was the youngest in the program’s World Cup qualifying history. It averaged 22 years and 61 days.“That’s basically unheard of in international football,” Berhalter said.

The Americans controlled the contest, pinned Costa Rica back and deserved the good fortune to come. Sergiño Dest, the 20-year-old outside back, brought the U.S. level with a stunning 25th-minute equalizer. The hosts survived a couple nail-biting defensive errors on either side of halftime and then in the 66th, Tim Weah—a last-minute addition to the U.S. lineup—fired home the game-winner. The 2–1 victory and three points lifted the second-place Americans to a 3-1-2 record, strengthened their hold on one of Concacaf’s three direct berths to the 2022 World Cup and helped boost morale ahead of the November showdown with Mexico.Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Both three-game windows have been a grind. The U.S. didn’t hit its stride in September until the second half of the third game. There was a steep learning curve for a team of qualifying debutants, injuries and the sensational suspension of midfield anchor Weston McKennie. This month, a relatively easy opening win over Jamaica was followed by the faceplant against Panama, which generated considerable conversation and concern about Berhalter’s faith in the depth of his player pool and the team’s mental fortitude. Fuller’s goal provided one more symbolic hurdle. The Americans cleared it with aplomb. https://41be34960ab1bd05b2b76c8ba5ee64ce.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html “What I try to avoid, especially with the team, is putting pressure on them because of external forces. We have enough internal pressure that we want to play a certain way. We want to play well and we want to win games,” the manager said. “But all of World Cup qualifying is difficult. All of World Cup qualifying is challenging. And sometimes I feel like people forget that and people think it’s a cakewalk and we’re going to play the youngest team in the history of U.S. Soccer in a game, and we’re just going to breeze through these games. It’s not realistic.”They’re young enough that seven players on the current squad, six of whom saw action on Wednesday, weren’t born when Columbus hosted its first World Cup qualifier back in the fall of 2000. The old Crew Stadium had become a symbolic and spiritual home for a national team lacking an official one, a fortress where the Americans routinely challenged Mexico for regional supremacy and lost only once. The venue is now different and far more modern. But if Columbus really is the national team’s spiritual home, then the ghosts delivered for the Americans on Wednesday.Winger Paul Arriola pulled up injured during warm-ups, and Weah found out five minutes before kickoff that he was going to start. The 21-year-old Lille attacker struggled in Panama but got an unexpected chance to make amends in Columbus. Moments before he was set to be replaced in the second half, he made a smart run between the Costa Rican left and center backs, positioned himself over a short pass from Dest and hammered a shot off the post and goalkeeper Leonel Moreira. It was scored as an own goal, which seemed unfair to Weah and rankled Berhalter.“I don’t think it’s an own goal. I think we gotta get that changed,” Berhalter declared. “I think it’s Tim’s goal. So we’ll talk to FIFA about that or whoever we need to and see if we can get that reversed.”Weah was just glad he started and was still on the field, and he made the most of that twist of fate.  “I saw [Matthew] Hoppe and DeAndre [Yedlin] on the sideline getting ready to come in so I kind of had the idea that I was going to get subbed out,” he said. “My goal was just to stay focused until then, and it just so happened that the ball came out wide to [Dest], and I saw the run and I just hit it one time and it happened to go in. It was just being focused in those moments.”Moreira’s inability to corral Weah’s bid also represented a bit of good fortune for the hosts. Costa Rican legend Keylor Navas, a three-time UEFA Champions League winner, started the match but departed after the first half with a muscle injury. Perhaps he parries Weah’s shot. Perhaps that’s the difference between one point and three.But the U.S. earned its luck. Its response to the early deficit was confident and emphatic. All the movement, proactivity and dynamism that was missing in Panama was on display in Columbus, where Berhalter deployed nine new starters (Weah and Yunus Musah were the only holdovers). The Americans didn’t buckle after Costa Rica’s goal. Rather, they soon imposed their will in midfield and carried the play. By the time a quarter hour had passed, the U.S. was clearly in the ascendancy. Dest’s goal was a thing of beauty—a 13-pass move that included nine players and which finished with a brilliant, space-creating decoy run by McKennie and then an emphatic left-footed blast by the Barcelona back.He was responding too. Dest had a miserable night in the Octagonal opener in El Salvador and was lifted early. He then got hurt in the subsequent game against Canada. Wednesday was a welcome boost, and Dest acknowledged his return to form with animated exhortations to the crowd as he exited the match in the 73rd minute.“Obviously I grew up in Holland and the Concacaf teams, they play a little bit different,” Dest said. “The intensity is high. They work a lot. They work really hard and it’s just physical. It’s physical. But, I mean, we can also do that, you know? And I think if you just work as a team we can beat every team.”Nobody has ever doubted this squad’s potential. It’s loaded with players who are on the books at the sport’s top clubs and others who are attracting their attention. Putting that potential into practice, however, hasn’t been seamless. Berhalter has argued that ups and downs should be expected. That’s a function of youth and of trying to qualify from a region whose teams have a habit of nullifying edges in talent or pedigree. Conditions are tough, the travel is a grind and the opposition is desperate and savvy. Any point is a good one. Rebounding from a poor performance with a come-from-behind win is a sign that the composure and confidence required is developing. “The beginning we weren’t sharp enough,” Dest said. “After a couple minutes we came into the game and created more chances, and we were in their half. The mentality of this group is still right, you know? We work together. We do it together.”Berhalter didn’t have to stretch to draw a link between the Sunday’s loss and Fuller’s early goal.“My initial thought was, ‘Here we go. We’ve got to respond.’ We challenged the guys to respond after a poor performance in Panama, and this was going to be another element that we needed to respond to,” he said.“If you go look at the Germanys, Frances, Brazils, they’re basically playing 28-year-old, 29-year-old teams. So for us to be navigating through this Concacaf qualifying, which is a bear—a monster—with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field, particularly going down a goal, and then the second half being up a goal and managing the game really well. … I’m proud of the effort,” Berhalter added. “The guys showed a lot of poise and they’re growing. They’re growing as a team.”

Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying rally past Costa Rica

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Wednesday, Oct 13, 2021, 11:15 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio – By any means necessary, right?

Ws are the bottom line during World Cup qualifying, and while the US men’s national team took the long cut to get there at Lower.com Field – longer than the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers’ meandering paths past this lovely new venue, I reckon – they did indeed reach their goal, digging out a 2-1 comeback win over Costa Rica to put their Concacaf Octagonal campaign back on course.

Here are three observations from a massive, stomach-churning but ultimately quite encouraging victory.

1

Nightmare start, thumping response

Gregg Berhalter made nine changes from the XI that stumbled so badly in Panama last Sunday, most of which were understandable. But the one in goal was perhaps a bit more of a head-turner, so to speak: handing Zack Steffen his first World Cup qualifying cap and dropping Matt Turner after 11 consecutive starts across Gold Cup and qualifying action.

It’s not that Steffen hasn’t accrued both caps and credibility with this team, it was more a question of his sharpness – having played just two matches for Manchester City so far this season – and whether a change at this particular moment was necessary, from both a team and individual standpoint.

It looked like even more of a talking point when Steffen showed some hesitancy as Los Ticos surged forward and slipped a scruffy goal past him a mere 60 seconds after the opening whistle, a brutal punch to the gut on a night where an inspiring start had been a clear priority for the USMNT.

“My initial thought was, ‘Here we go, we got to respond,’” said Berhalter postgame. “We challenged the guys to respond after a poor performance in Panama, and this was going to be another element that we needed to respond to.”

And indeed they did, pushing through some obvious jitters and gradually connecting passes to build a rhythm. While they probably didn’t expect to see such a proactive early approach from Costa Rica, the energy, movement and bite of that rangy Tyler Adams-Weston McKennie-Yunus Musah midfield trio steadily tilted the field in the Yanks’ favor.

Marauding fullbacks are a core element in Berhalter’s ideal way of playing and Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson filled the role to a T here, crafting crisp passing triangles along the channels and stretching the Ticos with their constant availability on big, booming switches. And then Dest calmed just about every US nerve in the building with this weaker-foot thunderbolt of an equalizer:

“It was early enough in the game, if we stayed calm and stuck to the game plan, I thought we’d be OK,” said Berhalter of the early setback. “It briefly flashed in my mind, Costa Rica just going into a really really low block. Thankfully they didn’t do that. So credit to the guys for staying calm, hanging in there and playing our game.”

2

Joy and rhythm

With an average age of 22 years and 229 days old, the USMNT starting XI was the youngest World Cup qualifying lineup in program history, breaking the record set just a month ago in the Honduras win. There’s reason to fear the downsides of that inexperience against a bunch of savvy vets like these Ticos – yet there are also major advantages, too.The young Yanks finally asserted control over the balance of a match, bossing the possession battle by a 64-36 ratio and forcing their much older adversaries to chase, shift and scrap. The visitors tired visibly down the stretch and while it was to their credit that they hung around until the very end, they looked a beaten, broken bunch as they limped off the pitch.Meanwhile, there was some entertainment on offer for the home faithful in addition to the vital three points. The US are playing this freakishly young lineup because they’re damn good, and with Dest, Tim Weah, Brenden Aaronson & Co., there’s skill and daring aplenty. The run of play was downright vibrant at times.Dest even made a point of thrilling the crowd not only with his golazo, flicks and backheels but also by being an impromptu cheerleader after exiting the match, which can only further endear him to the supporters:

“The crowd is amazing,” Dest said. “I love the fans, I was trying to get them hyped up, also for the other players. We can feel that the fans have our backs, so hopefully they continue like that.”

A third, clinching goal seemed close at hand, but when it didn’t materialize, the USMNT had to keep their focus and salt away the result – and it spoke volumes when Gianluca Busio, a 19-year-old WCQ debutant, was called upon to help do so, successfully.

“That’s basically unheard of in international football,” said Berhalter of his fresh-faced side. “If you go and look at the Germanys, Frances, the Brazils, they’re basically playing 28-year-old, 29-year-old teams.

“So for us to be navigating through this Concacaf qualifying, which is a bear, a monster, with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field today, particularly going down a goal and then the second half being up a goal, managing the game really well – Gianluca Busio comes on and he was playing like he’s 30 years old. So I’m proud of the effort, the guys showed a lot of poise and they’re growing, they’re growing as a team.”

3

Sturdy spine

As mentioned above, the concept of control has been a recurring thread in this USMNT’s journey to date – the ability to put a thumb on a match’s metronome to slow it down it or goose it up as needed.

That trait was woefully lacking in Panama, and it burned them. Something similar can be said of the disappointing draw against Canada last month, and for significant stretches, the away tie in El Salvador as well.

On Wednesday the group put it all together, getting stuck in, knitting together passing combinations, coordinating their movements and turning the screw minute by minute. Costa Rica did tug open a few seams here and there and it took a jaw-dropping display of Miles Robinson‘s recovery speed to shut down a sudden Bryan Ruiz breakaway in the second half.

But on the whole, the Yanks remained protagonists, undergirded by the engine-room steel and athleticism of “MMA”: Adams – who remains irreplaceable – McKennie (an influencer who needed to step up here) and Musah.

If those three can stay healthy, build their chemistry and keep a focus on both the short-term work and the long-term rewards ahead, they have a real prospect of growing into a force to be reckoned with down the Octagonal stretch, and eventually in Qatar 2022.

“We know his talent,” said Berhalter of the excellent Musah. “The talent is off the charts, and I know it’s easy to talk really highly about a guy after he plays well in a win and everyone’s happy. But I’m telling you, the kid is a player.

“Regarding Weston, he’s another one that his physicality, his desire alone can carry him, and just can push the team. He plays with a lot of momentum, he plays with a lot of energy, in transition moments he’s explosive, he sees passes. For me, he’s really a quality player.”

My 3 Thoughts on USMNT-Costa Rica

A Dominant U.S. Midfield Overcomes a Disastrous Start; A Tremendous Team Goal Finished by Dest; the USMNT Is On Track for the World Cup

   Grant Wahl Oct 14 

Sergiño Dest (left) scored on a left-footed rocket past Keylor Navas (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Here are my three thoughts on the USMNT’s 2-1 win against Costa Rica in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier, bringing the U.S. to 11 points after six games in the CONCACAF Octagonal:

• The U.S. midfield was hugely improved over the Panama loss. After going down 1-0 in the first minute in the worst start imaginable, the U.S. deserved to come back and win this game, not least because the midfield was dominant. Tyler Adams should start every game in the central midfield, period. He’s a game-changer in how much space he controls, and he makes players like Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie around him better. The U.S. had 63 percent possession in the game and was far smoother in its passing than the jumbled mess we saw in Panama Sunday. That central midfield completed just 11 passes to each other in the first half; Adams, McKennie and Musah completed three times as many in the first 45 on Wednesday, as noted by TruMedia’s Paul Carr. While Costa Rica’s aging players were exhausted in the second half of their third game in seven days, the U.S.’s midfielders kept ticking and the Ticos rarely looked threatening. The one time they did, when Bryan Ruiz had a breakaway thanks to a botched U.S. pass, Miles Robinson reeled Ruiz in like you might expect a 24-year-old to track down a 36-year-old.

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• The USMNT scored one of its best goals in a long time. Sergiño Dest has a knack for producing highlight-reel goals, and he added a glorious one to the list by blasting a rocket with his left (weaker) foot—with his shoelaces untied!—past Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas to tie the score at 1-1. But I wish highlight packages would also show the other reason why it was such a great goal: The majestic U.S. buildup involving 13 passes among nine players over 35 seconds. That’s the kind of soccer this U.S. team is capable of playing, and when they do it’s something to behold. It was also the first time in nine games that the U.S. scored a goal in the first half. On Tuesday, Antonee Robinson said the U.S. players needed to remind themselves that they’re a good team and can be ruthless in the attack, that it was time to be less conservative. The result of that approach was one of the best U.S. goals—and build-ups—that we’ve seen.

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• It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of the U.S. comeback. This was a pivotal match in the 14-game Octagonal. Had Costa Rica kept its lead, the Ticos would have overtaken the U.S. in the standings by a point, the U.S. could have fallen as low as fifth place and U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter would have been on a very hot seat. Instead, the U.S. finds itself in no worse than second place by the end of the night (and first if Mexico loses at El Salvador). That’s a much better place to be in heading into the next qualifier, a huge rivalry game next month against Mexico down the road in Cincinnati. Getting at least six points out of this window was crucial for the USMNT, and that job got done, even if the loss in Panama was ugly. At this rate, the U.S. is doing what it takes to get to the World Cup next year. The path getting there might be bumpier than U.S. fans want—that was certainly the case against Costa Rica—but they’re on track for Qatar.

Laces Wild

Dest’s Golazo with an Untied Shoe Powers USMNT’s 2-1 Comeback Win over Costa Rica

   Grant Wahl Oct 14 

Welcome to Fútbol with Grant Wahl — a newsletter about soccer. You can read what this is about here. If you like what you see, consider forwarding it to some friends. You can also click the button below to subscribe for free and receive every free post in your inbox the second it’s published. And if you do like it, consider going to the paid version to receive every post. I also wrote My 3 Thoughts on the USMNT-Costa Rica game at the final whistle. You can subscribe for free to the Fútbol with Grant Wahl Podcast, including our USMNT-Costa Rica breakdown with Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham, in partnership with Meadowlark Media and Le Batard and Friends.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The great ones do it with their shoes untied. Remember when Usain Bolt won the 100 meters at the 2008 Olympics? He set a world record, and the laces on his left spikes were undone. Or remember when Diego Maradona did the most memorable warmup of all time, dropping outrageous ball skills before a 1989 UEFA Cup semifinal to the Opus song “Live Is Life”? Both of Maradona’s cleats were untied. The U.S.’s Sergiño Dest is not in the Mount Olympus realm of Bolt and Maradona—the Barcelona fullback is just 20 years old—but the equalizing goal he scored in the U.S.’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica on Wednesday was something special, a left-footed jolt of kinetic energy that felt like it could launch all of Lower.com Field into orbit. That Dest struck the ball with his weaker foot at the end of a 13-pass, 35-second buildup involving nine U.S. players was breathtaking. That his left shoe was untied the whole time made it preposterous. When coaches tell you to strike the ball with your laces, they presume that you’ll knot them first. Dest, however, is an unconventional character. When Lionel Messi held his tearful farewell press conference at Barcelona, Messi wore a suit and tie, and most of his teammates dressed for the momentous occasion. The Dutch-born Dest wore a red Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls full kit, shorts and all. “I never really think what I’m going to do,” Dest said after Wednesday’s game, referring to his goal, not the Bulls kit. “Weston [McKennie] made the run in behind, and the guy followed him, so there was space for me. I just cut it inside, and I thought the only thing I could do in that moment was just shoot it. Because we had to score, we were 1-0 down. I felt like we needed these points. So I was just trying to shoot, and it was an amazing goal.”Dest’s play so far In the Octagonal has explored the full spectrum of the Sergiño Experience. He was out of his element on Matchday 1 in El Salvador, his first game ever in Central America, leaving his teammates exposed while he dribbled into dead ends. Bringing a Barcelona starter to Estadio Cuscatlán felt like taking a bottle of Mouton Rothschild to a Jägermeister-drenched freshman dorm party. Last month’s window became a wash when Dest got injured against Canada. But he came back strong against Jamaica in Austin last week, serving a delicate cross for Ricardo Pepi’s first goal, and after sitting out the loss in Panama he brought the goods against Costa Rica.“Sergiño is an interesting player because it’s almost like the sky’s the limit for him,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said on Wednesday night. “He could be as good as he wants to be. And you saw today with his attacking play, it’s unreal. … For Serge, it’s just hanging in there mentally, really pushing himself to be the best when he’s on the field. And I think we’re forgetting how young he is. Defenders rely on experience, and he just needs to gain experience. He’s doing a great job now. He’s played over 60 games for Barcelona already. That’s a really impressive record, and he just needs to keep working.”

Truth be told, Dest hadn’t covered himself in glory defensively on the strange goal that Costa Rica scored in the first minute of the game, silencing the crowd as the American Outlaws were still lowering their tifo. Dest couldn’t keep up with Ronald Matarrita, whose cross found Keysher Fuller open in the box. Fuller’s shot beat an oddly rooted Zack Steffen, who was starting in the U.S. goal in place of Matt Turner. Dest, who was all the way over on the right side, kept the Costa Ricans onside despite U.S. protests, and suddenly the Yanks were down a goal and staring at a fate similar to the devastating home qualifying fixture loss to Costa Rica four years ago.

 “My initial thought was here we go,” said Berhalter. “We challenged the guys to respond after a poor performance in Panama. And this was going to be another element that we needed to respond to. It was early enough in the game. If we stayed calm and stuck to the game plan, I thought we’d be okay. It briefly flashed in my mind, Costa Rica could just go into a really, really low block. Thankfully they didn’t do that. But credit to the guys for staying calm, hanging in there and playing our game.”

The U.S. had some luck along the way. After McKennie and Yunus Musah combined to gift-wrap a first-half scoring chance for Costa Rica, Chris Richards—making his World Cup qualifying debut—dove in for a tackle at the last moment and avoided what could have been a penalty and red card. Then in the second half, a bad pass in the back from Miles Robinson sprang 36-year-old Bryan Ruiz on a slow-motion breakaway, only for the 24-year-old Robinson to reel in Ruiz like a Bassmaster and prevent him from even releasing a shot. (Had it been anyone other than Ruiz, the Ticos could have equalized.)…

Good Reads: Landon Donovan Joins Us to Talk USMNT-Costa Rica and Look Ahead to USA-Mexico.

   Grant Wahl Oct 14 

USMNT legend Landon Donovan will join me and Chris Wittyngham for podcast episodes after every USMNT World Cup qualifier to break down the game and share insights from his vast experience. Those podcasts, in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and Friends, will post on the night of or the day after every qualifier. Every audio episode of Fútbol with Grant Wahl is available for free in the archives on my Substack siteApple PodcastsSpotify and elsewhere.

For paying subscribers to this newsletter, we’re going to make the written versions of these podcasts available as well. Some people just prefer to consume written content over audio content. You can sign up for a subscription (free or paid) here.


Grant Wahl:

Hey there. Welcome to Fútbol with Grant Wahl. Thank you so much for joining me. We’ve got another special episode today in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard & Friends with reaction from Landon Donovan, Chris Wittyngham, and me to the U.S. men’s national team’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica on World Cup qualifying Matchday 6. Landon is in San Diego, where he coaches San Diego Loyal. Chris is in South Florida, and I am in Columbus, Ohio, where I’m writing for my Substack newsletter, which you should subscribe to, free or paid, at grantwahl.com. Guys, it’s good to see you. How are you?

Landon Donovan:

What’s going on, guys?

Chris Wittyngham:

I feel like in that intro two things stay the same and one thing changes. And I feel like it’s just a reminder you that you’re at every World Cup qualifier.

Landon Donovan:

That you travel a lot.

Do you think if Keylor Navas is in the game that he makes the save [on the U.S. game-winner]? “Yes. And when he came out at halftime, again, I was with my buddies in the bar and I said, “I have no idea what happened, but that is the biggest blessing for us.” 100% he makes the save. 100% he makes the save on Weah’s shot. And then who knows what happens after that? Maybe the U.S. do score again, but there’s no doubt in my mind. And so, that was a gift.” — Landon Donovan

Grant Wahl:

I travel a lot, man. I am looking forward to getting home for a few days, but I love covering these things onsite. I love the travel, the away games, the home games too. Loved being in that stadium tonight in Columbus, brand new stadium, it’s absolutely gorgeous and just great location, great atmosphere. And the U.S. gets three points after a disastrous start going down 1-0 in the first minute on a truly strange goal by Costa Rica. Let’s start with Landon. What were you thinking at that point?

Landon Donovan:

All right. So full disclosure, I was driving home. I was three minutes late to this bar with my buddies, and I get there and I see the screen and I’m like, “Guys, what the hell happened?” Last time we sat at that bar, we beat Jamaica 2-0. So they’re like, “It’s all your fault. You weren’t here in time. Blah, blah, blah.” So I actually had to see it on the screen of his phone.

And my thought was what everyone thought is, a little bit of a haphazard clearance by Zack [Steffen], but then just a sort of series of, I guess, mistakes, but also a bit of misfortune too. And then on first glance, you think, “Well, the player in front of Zack has to be offside.” And then when you watch the replay, you see Sergiño [Dest] is kind of back in the play. Maybe he’s off the field and that’s like sort of this gray area too. So it was a bit of just a weird play, but a horrible start.

Grant Wahl:

Yeah. I can’t imagine a worse one. And Zack Steffen is involved in that play, but I want to ask you both, like how much was Zack Steffen at fault, and how did you feel about him getting his first start in qualifying ahead of Matt Turner?

“I am fascinated by this game. I think it’s going to be probably the most hyped U.S.-Mexico game ever.” — Landon Donovan

Chris Wittyngham:

I wasn’t particularly bothered by it. I think there’s a segment of the U.S. men’s national team fan base that was kind of annoyed that this is another bit of tinkering that Gregg Berhalter did that felt unnecessary. I didn’t think that Matt Turner was particularly good in Panama, particularly from a distribution point of view. And so, I wonder if Gregg Berhalter was kind of looking to improve in that area with Zack Steffen coming in.

I was incredibly defensive of the decision. I thought that Zack Steffen has kind of been unfairly maligned now because of how well Matt Turner has played. I don’t think these are two things that are at odds. I still think Zack Steffen is an incredibly talented goalkeeper who has been chosen by Pep Guardiola to be a part of Manchester City. And also Matt Turner has had an incredible couple of years in Major League Soccer.

So I think that both are well capable of starting. But then in the first minute, he’s kind of involved in a moment where you almost see the lack of game experience that he has in recent times, because he is shielded by a defender. It is an awkward situation, he comes racing off his line, which he’s become comfortable with doing, playing for Pep and playing with Ederson.

And so he’s way out of his goal, but then he comes back in, and I think he’s kind of unnerved by this movement that happens in front of him, immediately goes to appeal for offside. And I think is kind of undone by circumstances that maybe if you were playing every week, wouldn’t feel as bothersome or as new to him. So I do think that he is unlucky, but I think the bottom line is that’s probably a save that he should be making, and probably would have made if he was playing regular games for his club.

Landon Donovan:

But I would say, Witty, I can’t really tell, but I’m not sure he saw the ball. I thought maybe he might’ve been double-blinded by his own player and then by the Costa Rican player too. So it’s hard to know if he saw it because it looked like he just reacted late. The first part is, it’s exactly what you said. It’s just not being game sharp and making a little bit of a crazy play flying out of his goal like that.

But that being said, there was plenty of time for the U.S. to settle, defend the cross, block the cross, defend the cross when it came in and then make a play. And they just didn’t. So it was sort of a series of errors. But to the U S ‘s credit, the response was excellent. And what I’ve said over and over to you guys is, mounting pressure on teams, and they just did that over and over and over. And the last 20 minutes were basically a cakewalk because Costa Rica were so worn out.

Grant Wahl:

We talked after the third game in the window last month about how exhausted Honduras was. And you could just see it on the field in the second half. And the U.S. has more players that they use. They have, I think, the advantage of more infrastructural support, they fly charters. They have this whole recovery arsenal that Gregg Berhalter described a little bit when I asked him about it yesterday. And the advantage I think becomes very clear in the third game. And Costa Rica is an old team. I think Costa Rica has players that are older than you, Landon.

Landon Donovan:

[Laughs] That’s saying a lot.

Grant Wahl:

And so, when Bryan Ruiz has the one great chance of the second half, a bad pass in the back by Miles Robinson, and then Miles Robinson catches up to Bryan Ruiz, who should’ve had a breakaway, and Robinson makes a great recovery run and the shot doesn’t even really get off. But you felt like this is an old Costa Rica team. It’s a lot of the guys from the 2014 World Cup team that got to the quarterfinals. And it’s frankly not as good a Costa Rica team as we’ve seen in recent cycles.

So I do want to ask you a little bit about the goal that the U.S. gets because you talked about the U.S. recovery. They didn’t panic after giving up the goal and kind of dominated, I thought, even in the first half. Hadn’t scored a first half goal in nine games. Finally did here. It’s a terrific goal by Sergiño Dest who can make special plays like this happen. But also it was a sequence of buildup that lasted 35 seconds, 13 passes involving nine of the 11 U.S. players. For me, one of the best U.S. team goals we’ve seen in a long time. What were your thoughts on seeing that one?

Landon Donovan:

Phenomenal. It was a phenomenal goal. So when they started building, there is a part of me that was like, “This is dangerous. This is dangerous. This is Do you think if Navas is in the game that he makes the save?

Landon Donovan:

Yes. And when he came out at halftime, again, I was with my buddies in the bar and I said, “I have no idea what happened, but that is the biggest blessing for us.” 100% he makes the save. 100% he makes the save on Weah’s shot. And then who knows what happens after that? Maybe the U.S. do score again, but there’s no doubt in my mind. And so, that was a gift.,” but they made the next pass and the next pass and the next pass and they broke pressure. And then it gets to [Yunus] Musah finally. And when he gave it to Sergiño, I was talking to my teammates about the value of Musah.

And there are so few players in the modern game that will take the ball and just advance it on their own. It’s always a pass, a pass, breaking lines, a pass, but players who can just take the ball and advance the ball on their own are so valuable. So when it gets to Sergiño Dest, I’m saying to them, “Just go, put them under pressure.” And then he went to his left foot and you’re kind of like, “Ah, the chance is gone.” And then he unleashes the shot.

My buddy said something about goals with his left foot. And I said, “There’s a decent chance he never scores another goal with his left foot. And certainly not like that. He’ll probably score a lot with his right foot,” but it was a phenomenal strike. Just the way it moved, it looked like he was left-footed and it was a phenomenal strike. We were just in awe.

Chris Wittyngham:

To have it curling away from the keeper with your weaker foot, it’s crazy. And the fear is, when you go 1-0 down so early is Costa Rica are very used to playing in a low block, and they have Keylor Navas. So you’re going to have to beat him with something special. And that’s exactly what Sergiño Dest summoned. And I love the way that he has looked in the two home games in this window.

Because in the game script, when you’re going into teams that are defending, you see him with freedom, you see him in space getting forward, having the ability to cut inside. I thought that Jon Champion and Taylor Twellman were talking about the notion of him and [Tim] Weah perhaps having redundant skillsets, given that they both like to go outside, but Dest actually likes to cut inside, a way of keeping a fullback honest affords him that space.

Almost kind of wonder going forward, because there’s been so much conversation about how much he struggles away from home and how you can’t really play him as the right back in a four when you’re away from home and you’re going to be under pressure, and that’s not the environment for him. I almost wonder if given how good he is going forward and how much he enjoys that freedom, if playing him in a winger role might not be the craziest thing.

And putting him in an attacking position so that okay, away from home, we still have a little bit of a player who understands defensive responsibilities, but has the creativity, and you can kind of run your attack through him. And that’s something I thought that the U.S. missed when they made all those changes in the game against Panama away from home, is they didn’t have anyone that can run their attack through. And so I do think that Dest can represent a player who can do that and also put in a defensive shift.

Landon Donovan:

That’s a great point. And I think if the U.S. are comfortable playing in a back three, at least when they build, when they have the ball, he’s perfect as sort of a right wingback, right winger and right back all in one, he can do all of it. And I think away from home, your point is perfect. I think using him to help defensively away from home as a right winger, and then he’s clearly good enough with the ball to make plays. So I think that as Gregg and the staff assess these first two rounds, I think that’s a very effective way to use him…

Yunus Musah’s Wait Was Worth it—and He’s Worth the Wait

The 18-year-old Valencia midfielder has had to be patient to make his contribution in competitive play for the U.S., but after being cap-tied vs. Jamaica, his time has come.

BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

PANAMA CITY, Panama — After the courtship, the trial run, the anticipation ad then the decision, there was an uncomfortable and unexpected wait.That doesn’t seem like the way this sort of story typically plays out. The presentation of record should follow the fanfare. But in the case of Yunus Musah, his March commitment to the U.S. men’s national team didn’t lead directly to his competitive debut. Months went by. He was benched. He was injured. And the squad Musah was so excited to join, and to which so many were eager to welcome him, progressed in his absence.orld Cup qualifying forces players to adapt to strange rhythms. They have to maintain a strong sense of internal equilibrium as they cross borders and time zones, adapt to different teammates and opponents and, now, in Concacaf’s Octagonal, play games in new countries on only two days rest. You may have to play a match that means everything on fumes. Or, in Musah’s case, you may be thrust into the spotlight after months of disappointment and delay.It’s still early for Musah. He’s 18. But there was a lot of hype over the New York City-born and Arsenal-bred midfielder two years ago, when U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter and assist Nico Estévez started reaching out to the teenager. Musah, a veteran of England’s junior national teams, had left North London for Valencia in the summer of 2019. Estévez had previously coached in the Spanish club’s academy. “It felt like the manager really wanted me to be here—be part of the group, be part of his plans, and that makes me feel kind of special,” Musah said here in the Panamanian capital, where the U.S. is preparing for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against the hosts. “To be asked to be a part of that is a great feeling.”Musah started in a couple of friendlies that November and formed a tantalizing trio with Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie. Musah’s ability to surge through midfield with the ball at his feet and to unbalance defenses with his acceleration, agility and vision stood out. He was an asset. And he was just getting started. But he was also eligible to play for Italy, where he lived as a child; England, to which he moved as a nine-year-old; and Ghana, his parents’ homeland. Those are all pretty good options.Berhalter and Estévez coaxed him into the U.S. fold, where a slew of young, talented and ambitious players were focused on launching a new international era. In March, Musah committed his international future to the U.S.

“It was a lot of conversations about what this young group could do and the potential of this young team and the players we have in the pool,” Berhalter said. “How we saw him fitting into our team, talking about America and what we want to do as a group, and I think that’s what really got him excited about the project.”Musah still hadn’t spent much time in the U.S., but he was sold on the idea of representing the country of his birth and on getting an early senior start with so many peers. There was considerable attention paid to the announcement of his commitment. But his competitive debut would have to wait. After appearing in three more friendlies, Musah was called in but didn’t play a minute in the two Concacaf Nations League games in June. Excitement morphed into concern. Did he not fit Berhalter’s system as well as many hoped? Would Musah reconsider his decision because he still wasn’t cap-tied?“I talk to all the guys about understanding that they’d be disappointed if they’re not on the field, not in the starting 11. And that’s just part of it. But part of building a strong team is to have everyone engaged and everyone pulling in the same direction,” Berhalter said Saturday.“In Yunus’s case, coming into the Nations League, playing at altitude [in Denver], he wasn’t playing regularly for his club and we didn’t feel like it was the right time.”Musah admitted here that missing out on Nations League minutes was “annoying,” but he said that he understood Berhalter’s decisions. And it didn’t weaken his allegiance. If anything, his connection to the U.S. was strengthened this summer by his time with the team (he started a subsequent friendly against Costa Rica) and then an extended holiday in NYC. Now a U.S. international, Musah finally had the chance to reconnect with his hometown and really tap in to the American inside him. He spent time with an uncle who lives in the Bronx and had the ideal guide in U.S. teammate Tim Weah, who was home for the summer after winning the French title with Lille.“We kind of just had a little experience together, went out to eat and stuff like that,” Weah said. “The bond that we have with this group is amazing and the bond I have with Yunus, he’s like my little brother obviously. I showed him around. He was with me and my family, just chilling and enjoying everything that New York has to offer. He even went around by himself and just kind of took everything in. Seeing that he wants to connect a lot more with American culture is great for him and it’s great NYC offered “a nice vibe,” Musah said.“I always love coming back to the U.S. and being with the national team,” he added. “It makes me connect with this part of myself and I love being here.”But Musah would have to remain patient as an ankle injury ruled him out of the Octagonal’s opening window in September. Those three games proved to be a vital learning experience for this young U.S. team as 16 men made their World Cup qualifying debuts. The Americans went 1-0-2.Finally, after returning to Valencia’s starting lineup toward the end of September (albeit on the flank), Musah was ready for International duty. Berhalter said that he and Estévez remained in constant contact with the player and his club. Musah was called up for this month’s qualifiers and he was on the field as the U.S. kicked off against Jamaica on Thursday in Austin, Texas. At that moment, his bond with the U.S. national team was sealed technically, even though it already had been cemented in his heart. Starting again alongside Adams and McKennie, Musah showed multiple flashes of the player who can bomb his way through midfield, and he played a key role in setting up Ricardo Pepi’s opening goalThe Americans went on to win, 2-0, and are 2-0-2 and in first place heading into Sunday’s meeting with Los Canaleros (1-1-2).“I thought he had an excellent game,” Berhalter said in Austin. “We talked about his quality of driving at the defense and unsettling the defense and he did that constantly. And it’s difficult, man, when you have someone dribbling at you who’s that agile and that mobile and that keeps the ball that close to them. It becomes challenging for the defense. We’ll look at some defensive work, but overall, I thought he had a good performance.” gonizingly, Musah’s participation in Austin was in doubt the day before thanks to an inconclusive COVID-19 test. He trained apart from the team and didn’t know until just before dinner on Wednesday that he was negative and able to play. He was understandably thrilled to make his bow in a meaningful game.“After being involved in the Nations League and not playing in the Nations League, thinking that was possible again due to COVID was really annoying. But I’m glad it was a quick process and they realized it was nothing, so I was happy about that,” Musah said. “It was a big moment for me, you know? In my mind I just wanted to win in my first competitive game and I’m happy we got a win.”Now after all that waiting, Musah may have to turn around and do it again less than 72 hours later. It’s a lot to ask, but the stakes are high and that’s the rhythm and resilience that qualifying demands. Berhalter is comfortable rotating men in and out of the lineup—he used 22 across the three games last month—but McKennie’s absence due to muscle soreness means there’s already going to be at least one new starter among the midfield three.Berhalter can turn to the experienced Kellyn Acosta, Sebastian Lletget or Cristian Roldan. But if he wants a player who can unlock the opposition and force a defense into tough decisions, Musah probably will be the choice. Panama is a rugged side coming off a loss suffered on a sodden field in El Salvador. While it may be tempted to approach Sunday’s vital home game on a more offensive footing, defense remains Los Canaleros’ strength. A fan of advanced stats, Berhalter said that Panama leads the Octagonal in expected goals allowed. The Americans are second.“Panama’s definitely a very physical team, an aggressive team. We’ve got to be able to match that right away,” Acosta said. “Now coming back home they’re looking from the first minute to kind of take it to us, so we need to be ready for that and match their intensity.”If called upon, Musah will most certainly been ready. After months of hurry-up and wait, he’s now living his ambition. This is what he signed up for.“Since I joined the U.S., I’ve always had this in mind,” he said. “Trying to be able to participate in a World Cup has always been a dream of mine. We’re on our way to doing that, and we’re trying our best to be able to go to the World Cup.”

The unstoppable dreams of USMNT prodigy Ricardo Pepi

Oct 6, 2021Roberto José Andrade Franco ESPN 

IN THE TUNNEL of Toyota Stadium, Ricardo Pepi poses during a photo shoot. The late morning feels perfect. The sun casts a shadow over a good part of the grass, which looks as green as anything that’s ever been. The cool breeze rippling through the flags of Texas, the United States and FC Dallas makes it feel like the season is finally changing after another hot summer.

“Do something with your hands,” the photographer tells Ricardo. His voice echoes through the tunnel, as does the sound of the camera.Ricardo spreads his long arms to his side. His palms, near his waist, face out with fingers almost extended. His chin high, he looks straight into the lens.”The Zen pose,” is what the phoographer calls whatever Ricardo’s doing.”You’re a natural,” the photographer says.Ricardo smiles the grin of the rare teenager full of confidence.”I try to be,” says the 18-year-old.His voice lacks any hint of hesitation, as if he understands something no one else knows. Just weeks ago, Pepi made the momentous choice between two countries and joined the USMNT, a team trying to shake off its failure to qualify for the last World Cup. He has proved to be a revelation, scoring a crucial goal in the USA’s win over Honduras on Sept. 8, fulfilling the promise he makes to his family before each game: “I’m gonna score. I’m gonna score. I’m gonna score.”changing, even as he prepares for another round of games this week that will hopefully take him and his teammates to Qatar 2022, he seems so calm, peaceful. It’s like he’s always known it was just a matter of time and hard work before the attention would come. That his and his family’s sacrifices would eventually lead them out of El Paso to here. And that from here, he, and maybe they too, will go somewhere else.Somewhere farther than the 10-hour drive between this place and home.


EL PASO IS about 83% Latino, most of that of Mexican descent. But decades ago, the city was a lot whiter. And back in those days, Alameda Avenue was a sort of dividing line. If you were white, you likely lived north of that street. If Mexican, you stayed south. Between that avenue and the Rio Grande, on the eastern part of El Paso County where land is cheaper and it becomes clear that this is life deep in the Chihuahuan Desert, is San Elizario.San Eli is what everyone here calls it. That’s where Ricardo’s childhood home stands about a mile south of Alameda Avenue and double that distance north of the Rio Grande and the rust-colored border wall that scars the soul of this place. The overgrown weeds, the still-hanging Christmas lights, the empty rooms and the white car with deflating tires parked in the back, make it feel like the home was hastily abandoned. As if an opportunity came up that couldn’t be passed.Like many houses in this neighborhood, the Pepis’ former home looks like it’s still in the process of being constructed. Good enough to live in — the doors and windows lock, the water and electricity work, the roof doesn’t leak — but still unfinished.”I built it,” Daniel, Ricardo’s father, says in Spanish. Whenever extra money came in, it went to the house. Little by little, working on the weekends and after long weekdays doing construction, Daniel built this with his hands.”When Ricardo was growing up, the conditions weren’t the best for us,” Daniel says. “That was part of the reason we lived in San Eli. It wasn’t because we wanted to. I didn’t grow up in a rural area where the roosters wake you up, where the neighbors have cows.”From this house, Daniel and his wife, Annette, raised their young family. It was a life common to many El Pasoans. Monday through Friday, while working or at school, they stayed on the north side of the Rio Grande. On weekends and the random weeknight, the Pepis returned to the south side of the river to spend time with family still living in Juárez, Mexico.”We consider it one city, one community,” Daniel says of El Paso and Juárez. “It doesn’t really matter if you live in El Paso or live in Juárez, you cross that bridge as much as you can.”From this house, Ricardo — the oldest of the three Pepi children — started playing soccer at 4 years old. He’d grown up watching his father play, and Daniel coached him for a few years. Apart from practice, they’d sometimes do drills on a field in the shadow of a church that traces its roots as far back as the U.S. Constitution.Daniel put his son in leagues a year or two above Ricardo’s age. Yes, he did it to push him. To challenge him. But he also did it because Ricardo was always bigger than his peers. His family nickname had once been Gordo. Outside of El Paso, Daniel had to carry his son’s birth certificate to show that he wasn’t older than the competition, he was actually younger.

Ricardo had, what Daniel says in Spanish, “el olfato de gol.” Some words or phrases lose their beauty in translation. This is an example. But the idea is that even at a young age, Ricardo had a nose for goal. Like he could smell it. Like he could feel it. Like he could seemingly score at will — which he often did — even when his father had him playing defense. And as he did that, the opponent’s parents doubted Ricardo’s age again.”QUINCEAÑERO!” those parents screamed, implying the young boy was 15.”¿CUÁNDO ES LA BODA?” they yelled, sarcastically asking when he was getting married.Daniel laughs when he remembers those days. But he turns serious when asked if he feels like he pushed his son too hard. Like during those games when Ricardo didn’t feel like running because sometimes that’s the last thing 7-year-olds want to do. When that happened Daniel would take Ricardo out the game, then drive him home. It’s a long, lonely drive out to San Eli. It’s a perfect stretch of road for a proud man to brood in silence.”Yes, I was hard on him,” Daniel admits.”I’d make him take his uniform and cleats off and put them in the trash. I’d tell him, ‘Look, if you don’t want to play, that’s fine. Don’t play. But you’re not going to be wasting my time and much less, my money.'”

WHEN YOU’RE THE child of immigrant parents, you often feel as if you’ve got to make their struggles and sacrifices count for something. Calling it a burden is too much. Call it that feeling you get when you look at your father or mother and wonder what dreams they had before life shook them awake.Because sometimes your mother is 16 years old when she had you. And sometimes your father pawns the family car and borrows money because those can become tomorrow’s problems if it means everyone’s eating today. And sometimes, you live in a place like El Paso and Juárez that are often neglected by their governments, and it feels like you must escape.Like the rest of the communities, largely of Mexican descent, along the north side of the Texas-Mexico border, El Paso County has a substantially higher poverty rate than the rest of the country. Its per capita income is over $12,400 lower than the national average. It has lower levels of educational attainment. It has more than twice the national percentage rate of uninsured residents under 65.It’s why when you come from the El Paso-Juárez borderland — as I do — it’s easy to feel an urgency. It’s disquieting to notice how few things grow here. The barren surroundings don’t help. Out in the wide-open spaces of West Texas and Northern Mexico, it’s easy to get lost.To live here is to feel the questions that are as omnipresent as the mountains surrounding the region and as persistent as the winds racing down from them. On the worst of days that wind howls. It makes the desert floor dance until the sand blocks the sun and turns the sky from a hue of blue to a reddish-brown.That wind can rip the roof off buildings and tear doors from hinges. It can choke and blind you, sometimes worse. It’s on those days when it feels like we should all run away from this desert. Run away from this separate world between two countries. On those days when it sounds like some invisible hand is continually throwing dirt against locked doors and windows, it’s like the wind carries the existential questions that most here wrestle with.If I stay, will being around family and all that I know be enough to make me content?

If I leave, will the things I hope to gain be worth the hurt of missing what I’m about to lose?

“IT WAS LIKE they took a piece of my heart,” Annette says, in Spanish, of Ricardo moving to Dallas. It was 2016. Ricardo was 13 years old. FC Dallas offered him a place in their academy. Ricardo said yes. And he left.”The only thing I could do was support my son,” Annette remembers. “It was very difficult. Very difficult.”Those first few weeks when her baby was away from home, Annette cried herself to sleep. In the mornings in between phone calls to her son, asking how his host family was treating him and if he’d already eaten, she’d cry some more.”I can’t be without him,” she’d tell Daniel. “I can’t.”Daniel would try to comfort her, telling her it was what Ricardo wanted. That the only thing they could do is support him. But even for Daniel, that distance became too much.About a year after Ricardo left, his family drove to Dallas for a tournament. Twice a month they’d make that 10-hour, 635-mile drive. Coaches told Daniel that Ricardo was doing very well, and he had a bright future. During the visit, Ricardo told his father he wanted them all to move to Dallas so they could be together again.”Son,” Daniel told Ricardo. “I’m not moving here. We’re not coming.”If that wasn’t deflating enough, Daniel turned the question on Ricardo.”I want to know if you’re ready to come back?”As soon as Daniel asked the question, Ricardo started to cry. Whatever dreams he imagined himself pursuing were suddenly in doubt. To be 13 years old and to say no to the person who’s given you so much feels like the most difficult answer you’ll ever give.In between tears, Ricardo said he understood how hard the distance between them had been, because he felt it too. He missed his family the most, but he also missed El Paso and Juárez. He missed the friends and family on both sides of that river that separates everyone there.”I love you all,” Ricardo told his father. “But this is my dream and I’m going to stay. I’ll miss all of you.”As soon as he heard that, Daniel felt chills. He began to cry. If you’ve seen the tears of a stoic Mexican man hardened by life, it stays with you. They hugged and kissed. Daniel told Annette what was happening, and she told him she was ready to move. “I don’t want to be without him,” she said.Four years ago, the entire Pepi family — father, mother, brother and sister — moved to a suburb north of Dallas. Ricardo left his host family and moved in too. And just like it had in their old house in San Eli, their life revolved around soccer. When they weren’t at games, or at school, or Daniel at some construction site, or Annette cleaning another office, they’d watch Liga MX. And, as always, because the Pepis are “Américanistas de corazón,” they’d cheer for Club América, just like they’d always done.”I was raised watching Mexican soccer,” Daniel says. “And that’s how I raised my children.”So much Mexican soccer — the league, yes, but also El Tri — that as a young boy, Ricardo said something his father still remembers.”Hey dad,” Ricardo told Daniel while watching El Tri play.Maybe they were playing at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Or maybe the Mexican national team was playing in the United States, where they’re this country’s most popular team. Who knows?”Imagine when I’m playing there,” Ricardo said.

“I WAS 99 percent sure he was going to pick Mexico,” Manny Ruiz says.Ruiz, an FC Dallas season-ticket owner, is also a member of El Matador. They’re a bilingual group of FC Dallas supporters who during tailgates, play salsa and rap, and talk to each other in some combination of English and Spanish. Ruiz first watched Ricardo play in 2019, back when the precocious teen was a member of North Texas SC and scored a hat trick in his first professional game. Born and raised in Dallas, Ruiz is also a fan of El Tri.And so, after a summer of watching Ricardo score at an increasing pace with FC Dallas — including becoming the youngest player in MLS history to notch a hat trick — Ruiz figured the dual national kid from El Paso would choose Mexico. Yes, Ricardo had attended international youth camps with both countries and was a member of the United States’ 2019 U-17 World Cup squad. Still, there has long been a perception that players coming from the U.S.’s Latino communities, playing in city leagues and not expensive suburban academies, get taken for granted, at best. At worst, the system ignores them. About two weeks before Ricardo decided, Mexican American player David Ochoa said he was playing for Mexico.

Then in late August, a day after Ricardo scored the game-winning penalty for the MLS All-Stars to beat the Liga MX All Stars, the USMNT announced its roster for World Cup qualifying. They’d called up Ricardo and he said yes. When he announced his decision, Ricardo said that even though he’d chosen the United States, he was proud of being a Mexican American and that “will never be taken away from me, no matter what national team I play for.””I was pretty devastated,” Ruiz says of Ricardo’s decision. As soon as it became public, the USMNT fans within El Matador called Ruiz to taunt him. It hardly mattered that they too were surprised.”I was in shock,” Miguel Villalpando says. Villalpando, born and raised in Oak Cliff — a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Dallas — first heard about Ricardo when he played in the FC Dallas Academy. Villalpando says he immediately started paying attention to him because of their similarities. “He’s pretty much a Chicano,” he says, a term that describes someone of Mexican heritage born in the United States.”He’s from here and his parents are from Mexico. You have to take pride in that, especially him being with FC Dallas along with me being a U.S. fan.”To hear Villalpando tell how he, of Mexican descent, became a fan of the USMNT, it almost sounds like the origin story of a comic book villain. He was about 11, and the United States was about to play Mexico. “My dad was like, ‘a quién le vas? A Estados Unidos o México?‘” Which team did he want to win: United States or Mexico?But before he could say anything, his father — from Irapuato, Guanajuato — answered for him. “Ah, tú eres Chicanito, you have to go for the USA.”Villalpando, who laughs while telling the story and sprinkles Spanish words in every few sentences of conversation, admits it was his father’s way of being playful. But still, not every game is fun.”He was trying to insult me,” Villalpando says. “But I took it as I’m going to embrace this. Ever since that, I’ve always been a U.S. fan because my dad did that to me.”Friends and family — often playfully — call him a traitor. They tell him he should remember where he and his parents came from. And before each United States versus Mexico game, they tell him to get ready to lose. “I’m used to that,” Villalpando says, “it’s happened ever since I was a little kid. To me, it’s nothing.”During this long, scorching summer, the United States beat Mexico twice in the final of two different tournaments.Ruiz says that hurt. He says if Ricardo ever scores against Mexico, that’ll hurt too.Villalpando says that felt great. He says he’ll soon buy Ricardo’s USMNT jersey.

BETWEEN PHOTOSHOOT LOCATIONS, Ricardo says choosing to play for the United States was one of the toughest decisions of his life. “I talked to my parents about it,” he says, standing a few feet from the pitch so unlike the ones he grew up playing on in El Paso. Those were full of rocks and weeds with thorns that’d get stuck to his shoes, laces and socks.”I got the call-up from the national team,” Ricardo says. “I asked my dad for his opinion, and he didn’t really say much. He said wherever I wanted to play, he would support me.”Like Daniel, the rest of the Pepi family, immediate and extended, have supported Ricardo’s decision, even if some still ask about it. Ricardo’s friends back in El Paso have been supportive too. They’ve even bought their USMNT jerseys with “Pepi” on the back.Still, Ricardo says he knows there are a lot of people and even media who think he should have chosen Mexico. Explaining only that it was a better opportunity, he says he made the right choice.Whenever he talks of that decision — he’s asked the same question in each of his increasing number of interviews — there’s zero doubt in his voice. He’s calm and at peace just like he is before every game, when he sits in silence and meditates. “This all has a lot to do with the mind,” he says. “If you’re prepared for it, if you expect it, then it’s going to come.”But just because he’s at peace with the decision doesn’t mean he can ignore what’s about to come. On Nov. 12, the United States plays Mexico and there isn’t a Zen with an energy strong enough for Ricardo to pretend it’ll be just another game. To not feel any type of emotion when he hears the Mexican national anthem play, and he’s not singing along. Maybe even cry, since members of El Tri and their fans have been known to do just that.Ricardo says that game will be different. He knows two countries will be watching and the line between who cheers for whom isn’t always clear. He knows he could become the first Mexican American superstar on the USMNT, and that there will always be those who think he made the wrong choice.He knows his father’s dream was once to have a son play for El Tri. But now, Ricardo knows he has his father’s full support.”With all due respect,” Daniel says, “I’m still Mexican, and continue to love my country, but right now, my jersey is that of the United States.” I DON’T QUITE remember when I figured out that even if I wasn’t physically there, I could never escape living in a borderland. That away from this place between the United States and Mexico, I’d always feel a barrier between me and whatever place I lived. That while here, I’d feel the closest sense to belonging in the middle of the river that both divides and unites El Paso and Juárez. That’s the thing about this place. It’s a lot of things and some of them are contradictory.It sometimes feels like the most beautiful place in the world. Other times, it feels like living in the middle of the desert was always going to end with an escape. That same rugged beauty can inspire the wildest of dreams: a young boy playing soccer in Europe’s biggest leagues, a former construction worker writing this. But it’s also the type of place that can suffocate you.

So, you leave because there’s no other choice. But sometimes running away creates a sense of guilt.Leaving can cause irreparable damages to bonds once so strong you would have bet they could withstand any distance. Leaving makes you understand that the farther away you are, the less likely you’ll ever feel at home.”Whenever I get a chance, I try to make it over there,” Ricardo says of the borderland. He misses the culture, how everyone’s friendly and humble and how Spanish is what you most often hear on both sides of the Rio Grande. He misses his family. The season is long, so it’s harder to return. But, he says, when he’s back, on Saturday mornings he likes to eat barbacoa in Juárez at a place called El Chivo Brincon.

“You ever eat there?” Ricardo asks me.When I tell him I’ve never been, he responds with an incredulous “nooooo” that goes on for at least two seconds. I tell him the place we used to eat was a simple cart next to a gas station that, if it had a name, was ignored.”Everyone called it ‘el güey de la gasolinera,'” I tell him. The f—ing guy at the gas station.We laugh and the people around us don’t even know why.Unless you’re from here, you’ll never know how comforting it feels to meet an El Pasoan or a Juárense away from this place. It’s difficult to describe but it’s in the way they talk, especially when the conversation turns to Spanish. It’s in the music they listen to and the food that they eat. It’s in the shared memories of this place.It’s in the interaction. Because, if nothing else, for once, you don’t have to explain where you come from. No need to explain how much you miss i. Or the struggle to stay or leave.No need to explain how the border wall never looks as jarring as it does when you leave and go back.Or that, because it feels like it has always been there, sometimes that goddamned wall becomes just another part of the desert.


“IT’S IMPOSSIBLE,” DANIEL says when asked to describe his emotions when he heard Ricardo was starting the World Cup qualifier against Honduras.The game before, against Canada, the Pepi family traveled to Nashville. Since the USMNT played a scoreless tie in El Salvador, a game in which Ricardo didn’t get any playing time, Daniel figured his son would get 10 or 15 minutes in Tennessee.”We traveled there with that hope,” Daniel says. “Unfortunately, he didn’t play. And to be honest, the U.S. only got two points in two games, I figured he wasn’t going to play much, if at all, against Honduras.”Two games into qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, and the USMNT looked lost. The team had been expected to win both games and managed only draws. For fans, those results awoke dark memories of the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.That’s why the game against Honduras mattered. And why Daniel figured Ricardo wouldn’t play, since he was unproven. Of course, look at it from the opposite angle and it becomes clear that whatever USMNT had done wasn’t working. And so, on the plane to Honduras, Gregg Berhalter — maybe coaching for his job — told Ricardo he was starting.Daniel was driving around Waco, Texas, where he works Monday through Friday, when he heard the news.”Are you playing with me?” he asked Ricardo, the surprise so great that Daniel had pulled off the road.”No,” Ricardo answered.At halftime, losing 1-0, and again, thoughts that everything might be coming apart for the USMNT — maybe even thoughts that they’d chosen the wrong country — Daniel worried Ricardo would get replaced. Not because he was playing badly, but because it was his first start.”I see him starting the second half,” Daniel says, “and how he’s playing. I tell my wife, ‘A goal’s coming, a goal’s coming, a goal’s coming.’ And then it comes.”In the 75th minute, Ricardo’s header broke the tie, 2-1. And as he — the second youngest player to play for the United States in a World Cup qualifier, after teammate Christian Pulisic — ran and screamed and jumped in celebration with his teammates, his family did the same at home. All celebrating the euphoria of what Ricardo calls “a goal that changed the game completely.” A goal that, at least for one game, broke the USMNT free from the panic and doubt and insecurity that had surrounded them.”There wasn’t enough room in our hearts to fit such emotion,” Daniel says. Sitting beside him, Annette also jumped and screamed. She cried. Because that’s what she always does when Ricardo scores.”My son has always said that he was going to be a professional. That he was going to play on a European club. And always, always, always, when he scores, I get tears of happiness and joy,” Annette says. As she talks, her voice begins to crack.”I know this is his dream,” she says of her son, who finished his USMNT debut with a goal and two assists to beat Honduras 4-1.”That game was special,” says the teenager from the edge of two countries.

RICARDO STANDS BY his Camaro. It’s the last photoshoot location of the day.His car, a symbol of American muscle, looks as red and shiny as a candy apple. He got it about a month ago. It’s the first car he has ever bought for himself. And when he parks it, he’s careful not to touch the windows when closing the door. He doesn’t want his fingertips staining the tinted glass.”It’s been crazy,” Ricardo says about the past few months. He says he gets recognized lots more. Fans approach him and ask him for an autograph, and some — more than before — tell him they’re from El Paso too.Watching him play against men, it’s easy to forget how young Ricardo is. That, somewhere in the middle of his life-changing season, he graduated from high school. That he still lives at home with his parents. That when he’s not scoring goals, he takes out the trash, walks the dog and occasionally washes dishes.Ricardo misses home. But he has no second thoughts about the choices he has made. He says he understands how much his family has risked. They left the comfort and familiarity of El Paso and Juárez for Dallas, a giant of a city. Four years of living there, and they still use GPS to get around.This place is where they live now. For how much longer? No one knows. Soccer rumors mention Ricardo’s name along with some of the world’s biggest clubs in Germany, Italy, England and the Netherlands. Daniel says the family thinks about that every day.”But we don’t think of it as wondering what comes next,” Daniel says. “We know what comes next. He’s long visualized his path. He knows where he wants to go, and the path to get there.”But no matter where he, or they, as a family, live, they speak as if they too know you can’t escape the El Paso-Juárez borderland. They still own that unfinished house in San Eli. They talk about visiting as much as they can, crossing that bridge that divides and connects home. They say it never feels like enough. Because even if Ricardo chooses to play for the United States instead of Mexico, they all seem more comfortable in that place between those two countries.It’s like the last thing they want to do is forget where they come from. It’s why even if Ricardo and his magical right foot play for the United States, they only speak Spanish at home.Roberto José Andrade Franco is a fronterizo from the El Paso-Juárez borderland. Follow him @R_AndradeFranco to read more of his work.

The USWNT October friendlies roster has been released

A few new(er) faces join the roster for the upcoming friendlies

By Kudzi Musarurwa@kudzim88  Oct 13, 2021, 1:40pm

With a few more months left in 2021, Vlatko Andonovski continues to let those who played in the Tokyo Olympics be celebrated and still bring in some new faces in his USWNT roster.

There are a lot familiar faces as expected and with everything going on within the NWSL, Andonovski was keen to point out that his selection was based on the “well-being of our players”. Andonovski wants to the team to keep developing with each game while also entertaining the fans that will come out to see the team. Finally, the USWNT head coach noted that as this signals the last time Carli Lloyd will be playing in front of the home fans, he want to give Lloyd the “send-off she deserves.”

Emily Fox comes in once again

With Crystal Dunn choosing to opt out of these friendlies, Racing Louisville’s Emily Fox has been called up. Her form during the league has been deserving of another call up to the national team and she has been a bright spot for the new team to the league, despite their league position right now. Fox is definitely one for the future and if she continues to develop as quickly as she has, I wouldn’t put it past her to be on the World Cup roster in two years time. She, and those who want to see her on the team will certainly hope that is the case in 2023.

Injuries remain with key players

Alyssa Naeher, Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz will be at the training camp for these friendlies but all three are still a long way out from playing with the national team again. Those three names are probably three names that will be guaranteed starters had they been fit but instead, they will be watching from the sidelines as the likes of Andi Sullivan and Jane Campbell try to make a name for themselves with the team in their place.

Opt-outs provide opportunities for younger players

As already noted Emily Fox has been named to the team in this roster. She will be taking the place of Crystal Dunn who has opted out of these October friendlies. We can never fault a player for deciding to take some time out for their own mental health and given the importance of Dunn to the team, it looks like Andonovski has no problem giving her the time to do so. Christen Press also continues to be on sabbatical which allows the likes of Sophia Smith to be given another chance to impress. There’s no guarantee that some of these newer names will become mainstays on the team but if someone like Smith shows out like she did in the September friendlies, given her age, she could easily become another permanent fixture with the USWNT.

The full 21-player roster is listed below:

Goalkeepers (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Adrianna Franch (KC NSWL).

Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC) Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).

Midfielders (5): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards (7): Tobin Heath (Arsenal FC), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN VS. LOUISVILLE CITY FC – OCTOBER 16, 2021

By Indy Eleven Communications, 10/14/21, 6:15PM EDT size=1 width=”100%” align=center>

Click Here to View the Official Indy Eleven #INDvLOU Match Notes – October 16, 2021

#INDvLOU Gameday Preview  Indy Eleven vs. Louisville City FC  Saturday, October 16, 2021 – 7:00 P.M. ET    IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.

 Local/National TV: MyINDY-TV 23  Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)  

2021 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS

Indy Eleven: 8W-14L-7D (-13 GD), 31 pts.; 7th in Central Division

Louisville City FC: 16W-6L-7D (+22 GD), 55 pts.; 2nd in Central Division

Yes, there are deep playoff implications for both Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest combatants surrounding their affair Saturday night at “The Mike”, but we’ll get to that later. Judging from the passion of players and fans alike in their three previous meetings this season, the motivation to capture this year’s LIPAFC series crown will be more than enough stakes for the evening – with the Boys in Blue perhaps having a little more “oomph” in order to play spoiler against their archrival.Another impetus for Indiana’s Team is to simply end the season on a positive note, playoff situation regardless. Louisville’s 2-0 win at Carroll Stadium on Sept. 18 marked the start of the Eleven’s current six-game winless streak (0W-4L-2D), and the Boys in Blue would love nothing more than to get their groove back starting with a rivalry triumph that could springboard to a solid finish.Help on that front could come with the possible returns of key contributors from injury, as defenders Neveal Hackshaw and A.J. Cochran and midfielder Rece Buckmaster all returned to full training earlier in the week, potentially giving Interim Head Coach Max Rogers more options to dampen the Eastern Conference’s highest-scoring attack (57 goals). On the offensive side of the ball for Indy, early returns from Emmanuel Ledesma’s much-anticipated debut last Sunday in Birmingham were positive, as the Argentine playmaker earned the “hockey assist” on the squad’s 41st minute equalizer in an eventual 1-3 defeat. The chemistry between he, fellow “Manu” Manuel Arteaga, and whomever else Rogers deploys on the squad’s top line will be one of the more intriguing developments down the stretch for a goal-hungry squad that has failed to score multiple times in nine consecutive contests.On the opposite side, Louisville enters the LIPAFC rubber match stinging from a 1-2 defeat at Memphis 901 FC on Wednesday night, a result that snapped LouCity’s seven-game unbeaten run (four wins, three draws) and allowed a red-hot Birmingham Legion FC side to claim the Central Division’s top spot by a mere point.That match came in the middle of a three-game week, but the Indy faithful shouldn’t expect to see a sluggish squad come Saturday as newly-minted full-time Head Coach Danny Cruz managed the minutes of one of the deepest rosters in the Championship to allow for plenty of fresh legs on the weekend. While that may or may not include the league’s third leading scorer, Cameron Lancaster (17 goals), who went the full 90 in both contests, we can expect to see a heavy dose of the Championship’s assist-leader, Brian Ownby (10 assists, 4 goals), starlet winger Jonathan Gomez, and perennial thorn-in-the-side of the Boys in Blue, Antoine Hoppenot (3 goals, 4 assists).

SCOREBOARD WATCH CENTRAL (DIVISION)

When it comes to possible postseason inclusion, “The Math” has finally caught up to Indiana’s Team, which knows it must win Saturday – and over the following two weekends – in order to keep its slim USL Championship Playoff hopes alive.

Alas, here’s all that needs to happen for the Boys in Blue to make a mind-bendingly complicated run to the postseason come to fruition:

  • Indy wins its final three games (would earn maximum of 40 points)
  • Tulsa (currently on 39 pts.) loses their final five matches
    • Tulsa would end on 39 points
    • TUL owns fourth tiebreaker – regular season wins vs. in-division opponents – over IND (would be 10 vs. 11)
  • OKC Energy (currently on 36 pts.) loses their next two matches AND defeats TUL in season finale
    • OKC would end on 39 points
    • OKC owns second tiebreaker – goal differential in head-to-head meetings (5 to 4) – over IND
  • Atlanta United 2 (currently on 34 pts.) ties or loses to its next match to Memphis AND defeats Tulsa in its season finale
    • ATL could end on 37 or 38 points
    • ATL owns first tiebreaker – head-to-head regular season record – over IND

SERIES HISTORY VS. LOUISVILLE CITY FC

All official competitions: 3W-8L-5D (16 GF/28 GA)

All competitions at home: 2W-5L-1D (6 GF/14 GA)

USL Championship regular season: 2W-5L-5D (12 GF/18 GA)

USLC regular season at home: 1W-3L-1D (3 GF/8 GA)

Indy Eleven could put a nice little feather in its 2021 cap by taking the season series against Louisville outright for the first time with a win on Saturday. Indiana’s Team turned the LIPAFC series on its head back on May 22 with a 2-1 comeback win at Lynn Family Stadium, which snapped Indy’s 10-game winless streak in the rivalry and gave Indiana’s Team its first win in the series since their first USL Championship regular season affair on May 5, 2018. The second meeting also came on the wrong side of the river on June 26 and was no less entertaining, starting with Cammy Smith (9’) and Neveal Hackshaw (20’) equalizing within the first 20 minutes and followed by Manuel Arteaga’s go-ahead goal just prior to halftime. However, Corben Bone’s 78th minute strike helped Louisville share the spoils from a 3-3 draw. The first meeting at Carroll Stadium on September 18 was all LouCity, which us

IND PLAYER TO WATCH: DF/MF JARED TIMMER 

Timmer’s versatility has been amplified in recent weeks as Indy continues to recover from an injury bug that has kept several defensive players from the team sheet. The Butler University alumnus’ athleticism paid huge dividends through the busiest stretch of the season, and he enters the final slate of games as one of only three Boys in Blue to have played more than 2,000 minutes. Onlookers have seen the 24-year-old primarily in the midfield, but he has since cemented his role as a center back while defender A.J. Cochran recovered from an injury sustained in August.

Despite falling 3-1 at Birmingham Legion FC last Sunday, Timmer had a standout defensive performance, leading his teammates in clearances (4), interceptions (3) and passes/successful passes (51-41). The tandem effort between Timmer and new in blue Tobi Adewole saw the pair nearly paint the heatmap in Indy’s defending half entirely green. The efforts between the two could’ve seen end the night at least with a draw, had it not been for a dipping shot from distance by Legion FC’s Eli Crognale that put the hosts up late in the game. Continued stout defending around the 18-yard box and shutting down Louisville’s crossing plays into the area, such as forward Cameron Lancaster’s stoppage time game-winner against Sporting Kansas City II on October 9, will be a top priority from Timmer and company.

 LOU PLAYER TO WATCH: MF OSCAR JIMENEZ

After spending majority of the year sidelined by injury, Jimenez’s reintroduction to the lineup has added a late-season depth boost for Louisville. Though the fifth-year boy in purple has been readjusting to consistent minutes since returning on August 22 in LouCity’s away draw at OKC Energy FC, he has finally started to pick up where he left off in the first two months of the 2021 campaign after registering a goal, two assists and eight chances created in his last three appearances. The remaining three games for the Kentuckian side provide an optimal chance for Jimenez to continue building match fitness before entering the postseason.

Jimenez is as versatile as it gets – he can play forward, he can distribute passes, he can play box-to-box, he can create chances, and has been instrumental in a Louisville attack that has tallied eight goals in the last three outings, including his assist on Paolo DelPiccolo’s game-winner against New Mexico United on October 3 and his 88th-minute equalizer in City’s 4-3 win against Sporting KC II. In the last three matches, Jimenez has been seen marshaling both flanks (starting along the left twice and right once), taking the bulk of his touches along the touch line on either side of the pitch. Though he hasn’t put up the highest passing stats in that time (73.8% average passing accuracy), his possession along the edge of the field has been successful in pulling opposing players out of position, opening channels for his fellow midfielders to play forward, especially in Louisville’s defending half. Shutting down passing lanes through the center of the pitch will be key for the Indy Eleven midfield come Saturday evening.

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10/13/21  USA vs Costa Rica Wed 7 pm ESPN2, US loses to Panama, France Controversial win over Spain in Nations Cup, High School Regionals Wed/Thur/Sat, Indy 11 host Louisville Sat

The Ole Ballcoach is desperately looking for Mexico vs USA tickets next month in Cincy – if you have a line on tickets please let me know.  1, 2, 3, 4 tickets – willing to pay over price

US Loses First Qualifier 1-0 to Panama – Hosts Costa Rica in Columbus Wed 7 pm on ESPN2

Not 100% sure what Coach Berhalter was thinking Sunday night as sent 7 new players out on the field vs a Panama team that stands in 3rd in the Hex.   The massive, wholesale changes from the huge 2-0 win over Jamaica – came back to haunt the American’s as we looked disjointed, confused and downright disinterested at times.  The US tallied O – yes Zero shots on goal as Panama peppered the US defense.  Four corners in the 1st half finally led to a rightful Panama goal off a bad header by Zardes – essentially knocking the ball away from US GK Matt Turner – allowing it to slip in.  The US started

Weah/Zardes/Arriola up top along with Musah, Legette and unbelievably Acosta at the #6 in front of 3 new starters in the back with /Zimmermann/McKensie/Bello

Yes our new #9 the top scorer in CONCACAF goals after only 2 of 4 games Ricardo Pepi – sat on the bench until the 70th minute.  Yes the only guy who can stop the World sensation Pepi from scoring – BERHALTER.   Listen I have defended our foolish young coach many a time – heck he has beaten Mexico twice and lifted Nations League and Gold Cup Trophies with 2 different squads this summer.  But man I have to question the wisdom on his starting 11 for this one??   Now Panama is good – they have not lost at home since we beat them 4 years ago.  At the same time the US has NEVER lost to Panama – EVER – at home or away.  How could Berhalter not take this game seriously?  Did he really think we would march into Panama and tie or win the game with our C team?  Hell we are already missing Pulisic (ankle), Reyna (knee), Robinson (England Quaranteen Issues) and Weston McKinney (knee).  First off – no US Defense should be missing Miles Robinson – EVER AGAIN – unless he is hurt.  He’s proven this summer and fall – he is indispensible.  As good as GK Matt Turner has played – Centerback Miles Robinson has played better – and he’s honestly the reason teams are not scoring on the US.  Without him – well you see what happened.  2nd – when Pulisic and Reyna are not healthy – Aaronson has to start on a wing – PERIOD!  He’s the closest thing we have to Landon Donovan – his relentless energy bounds his runs unrivaled on this team.  Please don’t tell me he was tired after only playing 60 minutes vs Jamaica.  3rd Unless he is hurt Captain Tyler Adams should start every game the US plays in at the #6.  He controls the game and protects the defense as well as anyone in the world right now.  Acosta is a decent substitute at the #6 only if Adams is hurt.  And Finally – until otherwise noted – Ricardo Pepi – MUST START every game for the US until he doesn’t score a goal or 2 per game.  I still can’t believe he didn’t start Pepi  – yes he brought him in – during the 75th minute – but by then it was too late. Who the hell does Berhalter think he is Dean Smith?  You know the only coach to keep Michael Jordan under 20pts per game in college.  Not starting Pepi was a bone-head move by Berhalter and I think signified  either he didn’t have faith his team could win in Panama or he thought his scrum 3rd string boys could win it instead.  Either mark show’s his stupidity on this one. 

Well the loss along with a tie on the road –shows just how shitty the US is playing in other countries right now.  How could Berhalter – a student of the game not take into account the momentus day that Sunday was – Oct 10 – yes the same Oct 10 when the US loss on the road to Trinidad and Tobego to knock us out of the last world cup – USMNT’s darkest day in modern history.  Hell start your starters and win that game in Panama – if for no other reason than to CLENSE the US Soccer fan’s disdain for that day OCT 10TH .  To prove – hey US soccer fans – you don’t have to worry – we are going to qualify for the world cup.  Right now – I am not sure how many of us feel we are.  I still believe this is our Golden Generation – and this team is going to do special things. I hope it is with an American Coach in Berhalter.  But unless he straightens things out vs Costa Rica on Wed night or then vs Mexico in November his job status could become dicey.  

Now on to Costa Rica

So since I am going to the game with buddies – I have to pick us to win the game – I am thinking 2-0 – or Dos a Cero – just for old time’s sake – sense the Columbus Fortress should be hosting the US vs Mexico match in Nov (not Cincy) – PS – still begging for Mexico tickets if anyone has an extra – I can drive/buy the beers/and pay extra for my ticket – I have not missed a US vs Mexico game since 2004 within driving distance of Indy.  But I degress – I completely disagree with Berhalter’s thought that he needs his rested starters to beat a Costa Rica team at home that is 1-3-1 and stands in 5th in the hex.  Its Panama that is/was more dangerous – not having lost at home vs Mexico or Canada and currently tied for 2nd at 2-2-1 just like the US.  The standings  still find the US in 2nd place but we lost to Panama currently in 3rd and we tied Canada (2nd), so there is literally no room for error at home over the next 2 games vs Costa Rica and Mexico.   Its time to go back to the starters –

Shane’s Roster for Wed night – 

Pepi

Aaronson/Weah

Musah/McKennie

Adams

Robinson/Mark McKenzie/Miles Robinson/Dest

Steffan

Back to a starting line-up in the back 4 + Adams – along with McKennie and Musah in the middle – Pepi along with Aaronson on one side and Weah on the other.  Berhalter has yet to play Weah with Pepi up front – Weah has to be licking his chops to actually play with a real #9 – this starting 3 might give Pulisic/Reyna a run for their money up top.  If we want to score early and take control – this is the line-up.  Not Roldan who’s too old to go more than 30 minutes/not MLSers Leggette or Arriola – though I like them off the bench possibly.  Finally its time for Steffan to get a  start in the net – it sucks it comes after a loss for Turner – who I still think starts vs Mexico in No- but Steffan deserves a run at GK at home – otherwise why bring him all the way over here from England.  I am excited for the game and will be shocked if we lose at home – but heaven knows  I have been shocked before,  Game starts at 7 pm on ESPN 2 – why not ESPN – who knows?  Lets be real – ESPN doesn’t really care about soccer- so no real pre game or postgame shows like Paramount plus does so well.   Still looking for a great game ! Go USA !!

UEFA Nations League – France Wins 2-1

Despite France being illegally awarded the winning goal in the final vs Spain to win it 2-1 overall – I thought the Nations League Finals were fantastic.  The Semi’s were both fantastic games and the finals and the 3rd place game was also good theatre.   Too bad Martinez didn’t play his Belgium stars after Belgium chocked again in the Semi’s of a major tourney. Can we please stop ranking Belgium king of BS wins #1 in the World – they have NEVER WON a major tournament of any kind – EVER.  And even this GOLDEN GENERATION of Belgium stars can’t seem to round the corner.  FIFA please ranked them 9th like they should be. They are not Germany or France or Italy or Germany or even England (who hasn’t brought it home since 1950).  Belgium has never won any tournament – until they do – lets rank them where they below at like 9 or something.  Ok enough of my rant on the Overrated ness of Belgium.   I for one think the Nations League is pretty cool – it beats the heck out of useless friendlies where good players aren’t even playing for 60 minutes.  The good teams seem to have taken this seriously – and any tourney that gives me Spain vs Italy and France vs Belgium sounds good to me – almost as good as our Nations League US vs Mexico.  I for one am not a fan of a World Cup every 2 years – so I hope Nations League and the European Cup and  COPA America all still stay around with a World Cup every 4th year.  Heck I loved the Year before the cup Tourney – it made winning the Gold Cup a necessity.   

Nations League  – Blown Call

I’m interested to hear what my my fellow reffing friends out there think about the blown offsides call not called on Mbappe’s 2nd goal?  The explanation incorrectly rendered by VAR was since a defender accidently deflected it in a desperate attempt to keep the ball from reaching Mbappe – that the French Forward should be deemed onsides.  That’s absolute BS – it has to be an intentional pass back by the defender – not a desperation deflection – to deem the offensive player onsides.  I thought it was ok it was missed on the field – but when VAR missed it too?  Are you kidding me?  In a Nations League Friggin Final Match?  Seriously !!! BAD CALL – OFFSIDES – NO Go Ahead Goal for France in the waning moments.   Fellow Refs – what are your thoughts? 

High School Regionals this week

Both the Carmel High Girls and Boys teams advanced to the Regionals with huge overtime wins on Saturday vs Zionsville. The boys beat Zionsville 2-1 in a PK shootout as the Carmel keeper made 3 PK saves-  they will travel to Avon on Thurs with a birth in Saturday’s Regional Finals to be held at CHS at 4 pm on the line.   The Girls travel to Brownsburg Wed at 6 pm with the winner returning to CHS for Sat’s Regional Championship at Murray Field at 2 pm.  Cathedral girls hosts South Dearborn at 6 pm Wed with the winner facing probably Brebeuf Sat at 4 pm at Bishop Chatard.

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

TUES 10/12   WCQ 

2 pm EPSN2                 Denmark vs Austria

3 pm ESPN+                  England vs Hungary

5 pm FUBO                   Colombia vs Brazil

Weds 10/13    WCQ 

7 pm ESPN2                 USA vs Costa Rica

7 pm Univision, P+      Canada vs Panama

10 pm CBS SN              El Salvador (Eric Zavaleta) vs Mexico

Sat 10/16   

10 am USA                   Leicester City vs Man United

12 Noon NBC               Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

7 pm ESPN+ TV23        Indy II vs Louisville  

USA

How did Columbus become the USMNT’s spiritual home? heff Carlisle ESPNFC


How will USMNT line up for WCQ vs Costa Rica?

Berhalter takes blame for U.S. lineup gamble

Berhalter’s lineup changes couldn’t overcome another slow start; will the USMNT learn after loss to Panama? 1dJeff Carlisle

Berhalter’s lineup changes couldn’t overcome another slow start; will the USMNT learn after loss to Panama?  ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle


USMNT loses first-ever World Cup qualifier to Panama, dropping behind Mexico in standings

Gregg Berhalter: Players ‘performed below expectations’ in USMNT loss

U.S. men’s national soccer team loses against Panama in Concacaf World Cup qualifier

Panama wins qualifier 1-0 as Berhalter shuffles US lineup

USMNT loss to Panama raises concerns about team’s offensive struggles

USMNT player ratings from naive, confused, and historic loss in Panama

Panama vs USMNT: Yanks suffer first WCQ defeat

USMNT, Chelsea star Christian Pulisic attended Jets game in London

 WORLD

Lionel Messi makes more history, highlights as Argentina rocks Uruguay
Messi’s Argentina thrash Uruguay, Brazil lose 100% qualifying record

Germany qualify for Qatar 2022 but Belgium made to wait

Wales edge out Estonia to keep Belgium waiting

Werner double sees Germany qualify for Qatar World Cup

Ronaldo scores on European record 181st international appearance

Salah helps Egypt to crucial World Cup triumph in Libya

Grealish, Chilwell score first England goals in Andorra rout

McTominay gives Scotland dramatic win, Sweden see off Kosovo

FIFA Looks to Double Down on Its World Cup Profit Machine: Data Viz

Nations League

Deschamps hails ‘improved’ Benzema’s maturity after Nations League triumph
Kylian Mbappe has goal, assist as France wins Nations League (video)

France beat Spain to win Nations League

Kylian Mbappe fires France to Nations League triumph with controversial winner

Italy beat Belgium to finish third in Nations League

USMNT’s Weston McKennie, Antonee Robinson to be assessed ahead of Costa

2:09 PM ET

Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio – United States coach Gregg Berhalter said that both midfielder Weston McKennie and left-back Antonee Robinson will undergo fitness tests later on Tuesday to see if they will be able to play in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.McKennie didn’t even travel to Panama for Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Canaleros due to a quadricep injury he picked up in the previous match against Jamaica. He instead traveled ahead to Columbus to get further treatment.

“He pushed it a little bit yesterday, and the signs are he’s making progress,” said Berhalter about McKennie. “But we’ll have to see today in training.”Robinson joined McKennie in traveling early to Columbus as well. Initially Robinson’s absence was explained as a desire to minimize the effects of quarantine rules in the U.K., where Panama remains a red-list country.But during Tuesday’s call, Robinson mentioned that he has also been dealing with “a little issue with my knee” and that he’s been receiving treatment for it since the Jamaica game. He sounded optimistic about his recovery.”I’ve had the chance to recover and get myself back in shape for the next game,” he said.The U.S. will face a Costa Rica side that heavy in experience, with goalkeeper Keylor Navas, midfielder Celso Borges and midfielder Bryan Ruiz all on the roster. And yesterday it was announced that 39-year-old striker Alvaro Saborio and 37-year-old midfielder Christian Bolaños would be added to the roster. Forward Joel Campbell will miss due to a sprained right ankle. Costa Rica has earned six points from their first five games, putting them in fifth place, but just two points behind the U.S.”This is a group that’s been together for a long time, and there’s certainly strengthen in that, and there’s certainly an advantage to that,” said Berhalter about Costa Rica. “For us, it’s just the opposite. We’re a young, up-and-coming team, and we have to use that to our advantage.”The U.S. will attempt to bounce back from the woeful performance against Panama, one in which the U.S. failed to register a single shot on goal.”We missed an opportunity to get, at minimum, a point in that game. And that’s something that we regret and we’re disappointed with,” he said. “For us, it’s about getting back to what we do well, and that’s movement off the ball. Everything we talked about pre-Jamaica game is exactly what’s back on the stage now.”That said, Berhalter made clear he didn’t regret his choice of lineup, one that featured seven changes from the Jamaica game, and overall failed to offer much threat going forward.”We believe in every single player in this squad, and I don’t regret in any moment playing that lineup,” he said. “I regret more our performance, and some of the attacking adjustments we could have made in that game to be more mobile, to be moving more, but not personnel.”

USMNT’s loss to Panama is a tough, necessary reminder for World Cup qualifying

Andy DeossaSun, October 10, 2021, 8:25 PMIn this article:

Waiting for the United States to announce its starting lineup has become a tumultuous experience. Your projected eleven might be spot on or completely wrong, then it’s released and dissected in the moments leading up to the match.

Sunday was no different. In fact, the lineup head coach Gregg Berhalter went with was more shocking than predictable. It featured seven changes from Thursday’s squad against Jamaica. It was as close to a “B team” as you can get on this stage for World Cup qualifiers, and it showed as the USMNT suffered a 1-0 loss in Panama.

The lone score was credited to Anibal Godoy but might’ve been an own goal by Gyasi Zardes, who got the start over Ricardo Pepi, who is in incredible form right now. Besides the fact they gave up seven corner kicks and defended terribly on the set piece leading to the goal, the loss goes far beyond just dropping points on the road.

“You don’t want to make an excuse, but I think the [weather] was a factor,” said Berhalter after the loss “The other team had to play in it also, that can’t be the starting point for why we didn’t play well in this game.”

Use all the excuses you want about having to travel on short notice to play in tough road environments. One thing is — and always has been — clear: There are no easy games in World Cup qualifying, regardless of conditions or location. The USMNT know that very well. Exactly four years ago today was an infamous night they’d like to forget in Couva, Trinidad & Tobago, where they lost 2-1 and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

That day and result launched the hysteria surrounding the USMNT to the moon. A lot of those players have since been replaced with younger, more promising kids. Some still remain. In between there have been bad moments (none to that extent) along with great ones, too. For example, entering Sunday’s contest the USMNT was on a 13-match unbeaten streak, the third-longest in the country’s history. They hadn’t lost a game since May 30 in Switzerland. In between they snagged a few trophies over bitter rival Mexico.

But that run came to a screeching halt and those trophies don’t mean anything when trying to qualify for a World Cup.

Gregg Berhalter got too cute in tinkering with his lineup against Panama, and it cost the USMNT in World Cup qualifying. (REUTERS/Erick Marciscano)

Berhalter trying to rest certain players is respectable considering there’s a game in a few days against Costa Rica in Columbus, but he might’ve been a little too naive with the group he chose to start. The halftime subs of Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson for Yunus Musah and Paul Arriola spoke volumes. Whatever idea he had planned didn’t work. By the time Pepi, DeAndre Yedlin and Cristian Roldan entered in the 68th minute to chase the match, it was too late.

“It wasn’t through a lack of trying,” Berhalter said. “We just didn’t have that 100% today. We were really poor with our passing and some of our movement.

“Overall we performed below the expectations that we have for ourselves,” he added.

Sometimes, especially in these type of games, all it takes is a goal. The United States were frankly never close to that.

Nobody qualified or failed to on Sunday, but the loss needs to serve as a major lesson for Berhalter and company. Don’t get too cute when tinkering with the lineup because it could end up costing you. Instead of going into Wednesday’s game against Costa Rica with confidence, they will now enter it under more added pressure.

How they deal with it will tell us a lot about this team, despite being without crucial pieces like Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna. 

Regardless, the four-year anniversary of one of the worst days in U.S. Soccer sent perhaps the most important and necessary message for this young group: don’t let history repeat itself.

U.S. shocked by Panama: Berhalter takes blame for selection gamble

United States men’s national team goach Gregg Berhalter took full responsibility for his lineup choices following a 1-0 defeat to Panama in World Cup qualifying.

Berhalter changed seven starters from Thursday’s 2-0 home win over Jamaica, leaving a lineup already missing injured Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna and Weston McKennie having to go without Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams during the first half. In addition, Antonee Robinson remained in the U.S. due to British COVID restrictions that would have impacted him upon his return to the UK.

Berhalter took into account which players he wanted to be fresh for Wednesday night’s qualifier against Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio, the third match in a seven-game span under a schedule revamped due to the pandemic.

And after Anibal Godoy scored in the 54th minute to settle the match, Berhalter was asked about his lineup.

“Now it obviously doesn’t look like the best choice,” he said. “We know we’re playing in extreme heat, extreme humidity, we’re know traveling for 4 1/2 hours, and we know that we have another game on Wednesday and we wanted to rotate players. And if it didn’t work, then it’s on me, and it’s my responsibility, or our responsility as a staff.”During the final hectic minutes, the game was interrupted twice when fans ran onto the field. Ball boys at times threw multiple balls onto the field after one went out of bounds.”I had like two or three,” Matt Turner said. “I was just trying to get them off the field as quickly as I could. I didn’t want the game to stop anymore. People running on the field – the ball boys were throwing, kicking the balls onto the field as high as they could. And I was just trying to keep the chaos off the field as much as I could and keep our momentum going.”The match was played on the fourth anniversary of a 2-1 loss at Trinidad that ended a streak of seven World Cup appearances for the U.S., a defeat that enabled Panama to reach the World Cup for the first time. On Sunday, Panama outshot the U.S. 8-5, including a 4-0 advantage in shots on target, and ended a 13-game unbeaten streak for the Americans that included 11 wins. Quite a turnaround for a nation that had one win and 16 defeats in 23 previous games against the U.S., including no wins and six defeats in eight qualifiers.Through five of 14 matches, Mexico leads with 11 points following a 3-0 win over visiting Honduras, and the U.S. is second with eight, ahead of Panama on goal difference. Canada has seven after a 0-0 draw at Jamaica, and Costa Rica has six following a 2-1 victory at El Salvador, which has five. Honduras trails with three and Jamaica two.The top three nations qualify, and the No. 4 team advances to a playoff.”The good thing,” Berhalter said, “is we’re still in second place.”

How did Columbus become the USMNT’s spiritual home, and will it continue to be?

1:14 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle  U.S. soccer correspondent

In the U.S. soccer ecosystem, there are no shortage of cities claiming to be the “home” of the sport in this country. Portland dubs itself “Soccer City, U.S.A.,” for starters. Washington, D.C., has held its share of memorable matches at the soon-to-be-demolished RFK Stadium, while fans in Seattle; Kansas City, Missouri; and elsewhere have done their bit to evolve the sport’s fan culture.Yet when one thinks of the spiritual home for the U.S. men’s national team, it’s hard to argue against Columbus, Ohio. The USMNT has played a total of 12 matches in Ohio’s capital city. Ten of those have been World Cup qualifiers — no city has been home to more qualifying wins that the seven in Columbus — with five of them against bitter rivals Mexico. And yes, from those matches against El Tri came the birth of “Dos a Cero,” the fixture’s uncanny ability — for a time, anyway — to crank out 2-0 score lines in favor of the U.S. Along the way, some of the most iconic moments in U.S. soccer history took place.On Wednesday, Columbus will once again host a World Cup qualifier, this time against Costa Rica at newly minted Lower.com Field (coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN2). For adopted son Frankie Hejduk, the city’s love for the sport started out as a slow burn but is now in full flame.

“When I moved to Columbus, it was my dream to make this city a soccer town,” the former Columbus Crew and U.S. international defender said. “I knew it was a [college] football town. I thought, ‘Let’s make this a soccer town.’ Now with the players getting what they have, the stadium that we have, downtown, right in the buzz of things, I’m in a happy place. Hopefully we get another victory here in Columbus.”

“The catalyst was to win the game”

Just how World Cup qualifiers ended up in Columbus was down to a seemingly intractable problem: How to create a home-field advantage in a country where expats tended to outnumber — or at least shout down — U.S. fans. Fan culture in the sport during the late 1990s was still in its infancy, with Sam’s Army, a precursor to the American Outlaws, just 6 years old. MLS had been around for only five years.That reality was reinforced in 1997, when the World Cup qualifier between the U.S. and Mexico was played at Foxboro Stadium, just outside of Boston. The attendance of 57,407 amounted to a hefty payday for the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), though opinions vary as to the breakdown of crowd support. USSF director of events Paul Marstellar estimated it at 75-25 in favor of the U.S, though then USSF vice-president Sunil Gulati put it closer to 50-50. The match ended 2-2, but there’s little doubt as to which team had the more passionate support.”It was a different atmosphere. It was a little more laid back,” said Monty Rodrigues, 46, a financial analyst from Nashua, New Hampshire, who attended both the match in Foxborough and later in Columbus. “The Sam’s Army section was obviously loud and proud. [Around] the rest of the stadium, you had some people that cared, but mostly it was, ‘Hey, cool, it’s a World Cup qualifier.'”When it came time for the USSF to pick a venue for the 2001 qualifier, a different focus had set in for then-U.S. manager Bruce Arena.

“The catalyst was to try to win the game,” Arena noted dryly. “U.S. Soccer wanted to play the game in the L.A. Coliseum, because they’d get 90,000 people at the game, and they get a big bump, obviously financially. I convinced them that the priority had to be trying to beat Mexico.”Arena added that “it took a little while” to persuade the powers that be to look for alternatives. Gulati recalls that he’d long tempted his counterparts at the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with an offer of playing in Los Angeles if Mexico would play its home game in either L.A. or Monterrey — at sea level, away from the lung-searing altitude and smog of the famed Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. As he suspected, the FMF never took him up on the offer and the USSF soon narrowed its focus to Crew Stadium.

At the time, it was the lone soccer-specific venue in the country and had already hosted a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in the previous round. Not only would the capacity (24,624 at the time) allow the USSF to have tighter control of ticket sales, but the location in America’s heartland made it more difficult for Mexico fans to attend. The fact that the game would be played in February didn’t hurt either.

“With a large stadium and resale and everything else, a home-field advantage was impossible,” said Gulati. “We learned that lesson in Boston. So that became Columbus, where we could go to the Crew season ticket-holders first, and so on and so forth and try to get a pro-U.S. crowd. I guess you could say having a temperature being cold was a bonus.”

The relative scarcity of tickets seemed to have the desired effect as well. Gulati recalled how FMF executive Hugo Kiese complained that he couldn’t get a ticket to the match. “I told him, ‘There’s no problem. I can get you a ticket, but you’re going to feel very alone in the stands.'”

“It was insane”

Prior to the game, there was a sense among some fans that something memorable was brewing. The team had been revamped under Arena and was beginning to put together some results. The night before, Sam Pierron, a 46-year-old IT consultant from Kansas City, was putting up banners in Crew Stadium for Sam’s Army. He’d been to his share of qualifiers, but the vibe ahead of this match was different.”There was some serious anticipation,” he recalled. “It was unlike anything we’ve ever really felt.”Rodrigues added, “There was almost a cockiness among the U.S. fans. It was just one of those games where you just felt something special was going on, even before the game started. That team was young and talented, and it was just an excitement that was building through the supporters’ section. And we just kind of went with that.”What followed was one of the more memorable matches in U.S. men’s history. With temperatures hovering around freezing, Mexico didn’t even bother coming out for pregame warm-ups, handing the U.S. a huge psychological advantage.”That was the coldest I’ve ever been at a soccer game,” said Hejduk, an unused substitute that day. “But because they didn’t come out for warm-ups, we already knew — I knew — we’re going to win. They were already, psychologically, a little bit distracted.”Yet the match didn’t go entirely the U.S. team’s way. Brian McBride was forced off in the 15th minute after a collision with Mexico defender Rafa Marquez left the U.S. forward with an eye that was swollen shut. Claudio Reyna departed just before halftime with a groin injury, leaving the U.S. without arguably its two most important attackers. But despite those setbacks, the crowd was spurring the U.S. on, providing precisely the kind of home-field advantage that Arena & Co. had envisioned.Columbus native Kristina Balevska, now 37, was a junior in high school at the time and had attended the 1994 World Cup with her family seven years earlier. Yet the crowd that night — perhaps due in part to the cold — was like nothing she had ever experienced.”I turned to my dad and said, ‘This is insane,'” she recalled. “No one was sitting down in their seats. Nobody. Everybody was on their feet. I mean, elbow to elbow, basically. And every time we would get possession, the crowd was just cheering and screaming.”It was shortly after halftime that McBride’s and Reyna’s replacements, Josh Wolff and Clint Mathis, teamed up to score the first U.S. goal as Wolff raced onto Mathis’ through-ball, beat the well-off-his-line challenge of Mexico keeper Jorge Campos, and scored into an empty net.Balevska was soon after the recipient of her first beer shower, though there were other tangible signs of an emerging U.S. fandom as well.”I looked down on the row where we were, and I saw this grown man crying because we had just scored,” she said. With three minutes left, Earnie Stewart cemented the win after stellar work on the wing by Wolff. “Dos a Cero” was born, and Columbus was at the heart of it.”All of a sudden, you’re hearing that crowd, man, like more than ever, more than I’ve ever heard any stadium that we played Mexico in,” Hejduk said. “And it feels good as a player, that energy you feed off of, and now you’re feeding off the crowd. That was the first time we really felt that aura and energy of Crew Stadium.”It made an impression on the denizens of Columbus, too, creating new soccer converts. “It actually opened up the eyes of our city like, ‘Hey, we are a legit little soccer town here,'” said Balevska. “We might be hidden in the Midwest, but it put us on a map.”

“It’s not a pipe dream”

The 2-0 result meant a critical three points in the Hexagonal standings and got the U.S. off to a perfect start in qualifying. But for those who were there or even watched it on television, it was an inspirational moment, one that echoed down the years. Columbus Crew defender Josh Williams made the trek that night from his hometown of Copley Township, near Akron, and the game opened his eyes to what the sport meant and could be.”That match was what made me kind of fall in love with American soccer, truly fall in love with it,” he said. “I’d always supported it, but until you experienced that, I feel like that’s when the romantic side of things started to come out, and I was hooked from there on.”

For fans like Pierron, who had been beating the soccer drum for years, the game went even deeper. Soccer had perpetually been touted as the sport of the future only to fall drastically short of such prognostications. Now those hopes came into clearer focus. They were within reach. “That game was a reminder that everything you always dreamed of can happen, it can come true. That’s what that night felt like in a lot of ways,” Pierron said. “Everything you’ve always thought of, or hoped U.S. soccer culture could be … it’s not a pipe dream.”It was by no means the only seed planted in terms of supporters’ culture. Those have been sprinkled across the country, and at different times, but the Columbus offshoot has proved more fertile than most, continuing to germinate year after year.Following that chilly night, there was considerable momentum to keep drinking from the Crew Stadium well. The reality is that even in subsequent years, there weren’t many other venue options for the USSF. What is now Dignity Health Sports Park came online in 2003, while Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, was built a couple of years later. But in terms of creating a home-field advantage, Columbus simply had too much going for it to play a World Cup qualifier involving the U.S. and Mexico anywhere else.

“Then it’s easy,” Gulati said. “I remember saying, ‘I’m sure at some point, we will lose in Columbus or we won’t play in Columbus, but I’m not going to be the idiot that makes that decision.'”

It certainly helped that as the World Cup cycles rolled by, the legend of Columbus and Crew Stadium kept growing for the USMNT. There was the epic Oguchi Onyewu stare-down of Mexico striker Jared Borgetti in 2005. There was the wind storm in 2009 that created wild conditions, but not enough to stop Michael Bradley from scoring both goals. After that second Bradley goal, Hejduk let out a “F— yeah!” right in front of the Mexico bench, which afterward earned him a slap by Mexico assistant Paco Ramirez in the tunnel to the locker rooms. It didn’t come close to killing Hejduk’s buzz.

“I laughed at it. We were happy. They were sad and mad, and we got the best of them, and now of course they’re going to be pissed,” Hejduk said. “But it was more of a laughable situation because I went out and had a bunch of beers that night, enjoyed myself.”In 2013, the U.S. got word after the match that it had qualified for the 2014 World Cup, leading to a champagne celebration on the field. Granted, the Crew Stadium mojo could last only so long and in 2016, the run finally ended. Mexico claimed a 2-1 win, with old villain Marquez netting the game-winner.By then, the USSF had additional venue options as more and more MLS stadiums were built; next month’s match against Mexico will even be held down the road at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium. Its capacity of 26,000 is roughly 6,000 more than what Lower.com Field possesses, so in a sense, the USSF is getting the best of both worlds: a slightly bigger stadium, but one still small enough to control most of the ticketing.Of course, none of that dampens the legend that is Columbus and the games that have been played there. The state of Ohio continues to make contributions to the U.S. men’s national team as well, with seven Ohio natives, including Brad Friedel, the goalkeeper for that game in 2001, playing for the U.S. The Save The Crew movement also crystallized the love of the game in the city, though it’s the national team games that remain seared into the memory.”Columbus is an incredible market that has played host to many memorable USSF matches over the years,” said David Wright, USSF chief commercial officer. “With a world-class stadium and passionate fans, we couldn’t be more excited to return.”Will the city remain in the USSF’s World Cup qualification rotation? History counts obviously, but with more options, there is a sense that the city will have to prove itself again. Wednesday’s match against Costa Rica certainly counts as a test run.

“I still think Columbus gets a little bit of the short end of the stick with just how passionate some of these people are, and how much they care about soccer,” Williams said. “Now there’s clothing lines around the city that have those ‘Dos a Cero‘ t-shirts. Everybody around Columbus knows that scoreline because of these games.”

Crew Stadium is still standing, mind you; the site has become the Crew’s training facility. But for game days, it has been replaced by shiny, new Lower.com Field, which has drawn rave reviews from players, coaches and fans alike. The hope, especially in the wake of Sunday’s shocking 1-0 road defeat to Panama, is that some new memories will be etched into USMNT history.

“It was a good ride and now we just start over again, dude,” Hejduk said. “You’ve got these qualifiers coming up here and in Cincy. Ohio loves soccer here, and it’s really a cool thing to see.”

The USMNT has loved it back, too.

 
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10/8/21  USA wins 2-0, @ Pan Sun 6 pm, Spain vs France Sun 2:45 ESPN, HS Sectional Finals Sat

US Men vs Jamaica  @ Panama Sunday 6 pm Paramount +

The US moves to Top of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Standings with 2-0 over Jamaica  

Wow – it might just be time to hop on the Pepi Train!  Ricardo Pepi at just 18 years old became the youngest US player to score in back to back qualifiers.  The two goals were classic #9 goals and Pepi is showing he might just be the answer for the US moving forward.  The other 18 year old who was magnificent was Yanus Musah – the Valencia winger starting at the #8 midfield slot and was downright fantastic as he started the attack on the first goal and he just continuously attacks the goal.  He does what a #8 is supposed to do – I would argue he might be better than McKinney who completely disappeared last night. Musah always goes forward and does a great job of transitioning the ball from offense to defense.  Really, really impressive.  Of course Aaronson and Tim Weah were both lightening fast on the right wing and were really dangerous.   Aaronson with an assist to Pepi and a couple of great shots.  Weah came on in the 2nd half and provided good service (that Zardes missed /Pepi would have bagged it) and he too had some great shots on goal.  MLS Goalkeeping standout Blake for Jamaica stood on his head or this would have been 4-0.  In the back Sergio Dest was a start on the right side – often the most dangerous and entertaining player on the ball and the centerback pairing of Robinson and Zimmermann was fine.  Of course GK Matt Turner made 2 saves in the first half – 1 of them world class to hold another clean sheet.  Again this game is not on regular TV because CBS Paramount Plus bought the rights to the CONCACAF World Cup and Nations Cup games. 

 

Looking ahead – Stefan/Robinson and a slightly injured McKinney will not travel to Panama but should be available in Columbus for Costa Rica.  I like the US in a close 2-1 win at Panama. I picked the 2-0 result vs Jamaica –we’ll see for Sunday night vs Panama.  I will be headed to Columbus for the US vs Costa Rica game Wednesday Oct 13th – let me know if you are going and we can hoopkup downtown before the game.  Also I am desperately looking for US vs Mexico Tickets in November – (willing to pay over cost for 1 or 2 or 4 tickets) please let me know if you have extras. 

USMNT roster for October World Cup qualifiers

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United),  Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Shaq Moore (Tenerife), Walker Zimmermann (Nashville), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Tim Weah (Lille), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Here’s the schedule (all times ET):

  • Thursday, Oct. 7 — vs. Jamaica 2-0
  • Sunday, Oct. 10 — at Panama (6 p.m., Paramount+, Universo)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13 — vs. Costa Rica (7 p.m., ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN)  Columbus

Who Shane likes to start vs Panama

Pepi

Aaronson/Weah

Musah or Roldan/Lletget

Adams

Bello/Mark McKenzie/Miles Robinson/Yedlin

Turner

WCQ Standings

TEAMGPWDLGDP
United States4220+58
Mexico4220+28
Canada4130+36
Panama4121+25
El Salvador4121-25
Costa Rica4031-13
Honduras4031-33
Jamaica4013-61

High School Sectional Finals  

CARMEL GIRLS SECTIONAL at Murray Stadium  $6/session, 

Carmel 1, Guerin Catholic 0 — Lauren Bailey scored the game-winning goal early in the second half. Emily Roper recorded the assist.

Oct. 7

M3: North Central (Indianapolis) 3, Pike 0

Friday

M4: Zionsville vs. Westfield, 5:30 p.m.

M5: Carmel vs. North Central, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Championship: M4 vs. M5, 7 p.m.

Westfield Boys SECTIONAL $6/session, 

Oct. 6

Zionsville 3, North Central 0

Oct. 7

M4: Carmel 3, Pike 1 — Resumed from Wednesday night.

Saturday

Championship: Zionsville vs. Carmel, 2 p.m.

GUERIN Boys SECTIONAL $6/session, 

Oct. 6

Brebeuf Jesuit 6, Lebanon 0

Oct. 7

Guerin Catholic 2, Cardinal Ritter 1

Saturday

Championship: Brebeuf vs. Guerin Catholic, 2 p.m.

Noblesville Boys SECTIONAL

Oct. 6

Fishers 2, Muncie Central 0

Noblesville 5, Pendleton Heights 0

Saturday

Championship: #1 Fishers vs. #2 Noblesville, 6 p.m.

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PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo.
  • Features US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, Champions League, Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

SAT    WCQ 

2:45 pm  ESPN+           Androra vs England

2:45 pm ESPN +           Switzerland vs Northern Ireland 

2:45 pm ESPN+            Poland vs San Marino

6 pm Univision             NYRB vs Inter Miami

9 pm ESPN+                  Seattle vs Vancouver

SUN    WCQ 

9 am ESPNU                 UEFA Nations League 3rd place

2:45 pm ESPN              UEFA Nations League FINALS

3 pm ESPN+                  Minn vs Colorado

5 pm ESPN+                  Birmingham vs Indy 11

5 pm FUBO                   Colombia vs Brazil

5pm Paramount+         USA Pregame Show

6 pm Paramount+        USA @ Panama

7 pm Univision, P+      Mexico vs Honduras

7:30 pm fubo               Argentina vs Uruguay

MON 10/12    WCQ 

2:45 pm  ESPN2           Slovenia vs Russia  

TUES 10/13    WCQ 

2 pm EPSN2                 Denmark vs Austria

3 pm ESPN+                  England vs Hungary

5 pm FUBO                   Colombia vs Brazil

Weds 10/14    WCQ 

7 pm ESPN2                  USA vs Costa Rica

7 pm Univision, P+      Canada vs Panama

10 pm CBS SN              El Salvador (Eric Zavaleta) vs Mexico

USA


Ricardo Pepi’s goals lift U.S. over Jamaica in World Cup qualifying match

U.S. striker Pepi makes case with stellar showing against Jamaica

Panama, USMNT will forever remember Oct. 10, 2017, but for very different reasons
USMNT vs Jamaica: 3 things we learned in World Cup qualifying

Analysis: Pepi & Aaronson lead the U.S. past Jamaica 2-0 in Austin

The Ricardo Pepi Hype Train Chugs Right Along SI Brian Straus

Pepi Does it Again for US
Pepi decision proving big for U.S. as goal scoring star

TakeAways from US vs Panama & W2W4 vs Panama  Matt Doyle MLS.com  

NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM

Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s Pepi-inspired win over Jamaica 

CONCACAF WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Three Takeaways from Canada’s impressive draw with Mexico at the Azteca

 

UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE FINAL SUN 2 ESPN 2


Ferran Torres, Spain end Italy’s record streak, reach Nations League Final

Mbappe has ‘winner’s mentality’, says France captain Lloris

Spain end Italy’s record unbeaten run to reach Nations League final

How 17-year-old Gavi became Spain’s present and future

WORLD


England to have female ref in charge for first time in World Cup qualifier

Werner under pressure to maintain goal-scoring run for Germany

 

NWSL  
NWSL teams pause games: “this is not business as usual”

Morgan, ex-NWSL players call for better policies, more transparency from league

Courage owner apologizes for ‘failure’ with former coach Paul Riley after allegations

Carli Lloyd thanks Philadelphia soccer fans for giving her a NWSL homecoming game she’ll never forget

 UEFA Women’s Champions League: Macario scores for Lyon; Heath falls with Arsenal

Indy 11

Indy 11 play at Birmingham Legion FC @ 5 pm on ESPN+ before returning home to face Louisville City FC next sat on My TV 23.

·      RECAP | INDY ELEVEN 1 : 1 ATLANTA UNITED 2

·      INDY ELEVEN EARNS INDIANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, WELLNESS COUNCIL OF INDIANA GOLD COVID STOPS HERE DESIGNATION

https://www.indyeleven.com/league-standings

MLS

Columbus Defeats Cruz Azul 2-0 to Win Campeones Cup

MLS: 2022 All-Star Game headed to Minnesota

USWNT vs Korea in KC 10/21 and St. Paul 10/26
Tickets are still available for the USWNT’s last two home matches of 2021 – and the Legendary Carli Lloyd’s last two matches in U.S. jersey: October 21 in Mercy Park in Kansas City and October 26 in St. Paul’s Allianz Field. Games

The US #9 Ricardo Pepi Hype Train Chugs Right Along

Success at a high level is coming fast for the 18-year-old U.S. men’s national team striker, whose contributions in World Cup qualifying have proven invaluable.

BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

  •  

AUSTIN, Texas — The fans were showering him with love—full cups were literally flying—and so Ricardo Pepi took the opportunity to return it. The ball having bounced safely inside the left post, the 18-year-old striker jogged toward Q2 Stadium’s southwest corner and kissed the U.S. Soccer crest on his jersey.This relationship is in that early, delirious phase where everything seems perfect. But no matter how long it lasts, its impact is already significant. Pepi is the fresh face of this young U.S. men’s national team’s World Cup qualifying resurgence. After tallying a goal and two assists in his debut last month in Honduras, the FC Dallas star and El Paso native helped lift the Americans to first place in the Concacaf Octagonal with both goals in Thursday’s 2-0 defeat of Jamaica.The notable stats and facts are starting to pile up. Pepi has three goals in two senior U.S. starts. On Thursday, he become the second-youngest American man to score multiple goals in a match (Christian Pulisic has the record) and the youngest to find the net in back-to-back World Cup qualifiers. He’s now alone in first place atop the Octagonal leader board despite appearing in only two of the four games. The much-discussed Pepi hype train only recently departed, but it’s already reached dizzying speed. https://252a7e5c0ff64ebbf87f553cb552aea0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html The U.S. struggled to find its attacking rhythm in its first two qualifiers. Since halftime of the Honduras game, however, the Americans (2-0-2) have been almost unstoppable. Pepi isn’t doing it alone, of course. But the scoreboard acknowledges only the finish, and U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter has been searching for a player who boasts the requisite technical ability, as well as a knack for nailing the runs and timing that complement the buildup fashioned by his attacking midfielders and wingers. Pepi’s ability to mesh with his teammates and bring Berhalter’s vision to life seems almost intuitive.“We’re all excited. For us, we’re just sitting there and we’re on the train,” Berhalter said Thursday night. “We’re just observing everything that’s happening. It’s amazing. I mean, an 18-year-old gets an opportunity and takes advantage of it. What you see, and what I really like, is that he has this instinct and it’s really hard to teach that to players. He has an instinct to score.”

Pepi really does make it look easy. Following a fallow first half against Jamaica, the quick and proactive U.S. started finding the precision it was missing on its crosses. In the 49th minute, he held up his run as Yunus Musah carried the ball through midfield, then subtly backed off a Jamaican defender to create the needed space to head home Sergiño Dest’s cross. In the 62nd minute, Pepi raced into the penalty area to meet Brenden Aaronson’s cross. Two touches, two goals, three points—it was a striker’s clinic. The Americans don’t need someone in that role who can create off the dribble or bomb away from distance. They’re looking for their Lewandowski—someone who can find the right run in a split second and then find the composure to finish off the play.“It’s about being patient,” Pepi said of his wait to make his mark against Jamaica. “I feel like if you ask any striker, whenever you don’t touch the ball or whenever you don’t get a lot of opportunities, you just have to stay ready for it when you do get a chance.”The sample size isn’t extensive. It’s been two games. But it’s hard to be more effective in so short a time, and the world is taking notice. Pepi has been a regular at FCD for only a season and a half, but it’s hard not to imagine him departing for Europe over the winter. Big clubs are circling. Ajax, Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Genoa are among the clubs that have been mentioned in recent reports.He has a big choice to make. But it won’t be his first. This summer, he made a career-defining decision by deciding to commit his international future to the U.S. The son of Mexican parents who was born and raised straddling both countries and cultures, Pepi almost certainly would’ve felt at home wearing either nation’s colors. But after spending time with the U.S. U-17s, he made his decision in August. In addition to playing for his native land, he was joining a team searching for what he offers. Berhalter has several strikers to choose from, but none had seized the starting role.“I am very proud to be Mexcian-American,” Pepi wrote in August. “At the same time, I was born and raised in the USA. This country has given me and my family a home, and endless possibilities to achieve my dreams. It has supported me, it has lifted me up, and it has shown me when you work hard you will be rewarded.”Pepi is already returning the favor. Berhalter expressed some concern following Thursday’s game about the minutes and miles that are already in his striker’s legs this season, but followed that with admiration for Pepi’s ability to power through. This month’s World Cup qualifying window will continue with Sunday’s game at Panama (1-1-2) and then conclude with a visit by Costa Rica (0-1-3) to Columbus, Ohio.”We knew that it was going to take a lot of mental courage for him to step up and really play with that relentless that we need, and he did it. So really proud of him,” Berhalter said.Aaronson, who’s just 20, said he was “really proud” of Pepi too. Aaronson, who’s already got 11 caps and a move to Red Bull Salzburg under his belt, is practically a veteran compared to Pepi. And he’s as thrilled as his manager and those beer-throwing U..S. fans about his young teammate’s start.

“He’s really grown into this striker that is just so deadly in the box. He’s someone that’s always around. I mean, for a midfielder-slash-winger, what I am, it’s a dream to play with a striker like him because you know he’s going to be in these spots,” Aaronson said after Thursday’s win. “His hold-up play is good. He plays simple. He doesn’t try to do too much and when he gets in the box he scores. I’m really proud of him. He’s an 18-year-old kid and it’s unbelievable what he’s doing, and the sky’s the limit for him.”Pepi doesn’t seem fazed by any of it yet. He’s succinct and soft spoken, and there seems to be no doubt about what he’s after. There’s been no distraction so far. He has scored 13 goals in MLS play for FC Dallas this season and he hit the clinching penalty kick in August’s All-Star win over a Liga MX select team. He’s now clearly the top striker on Berhalter’s depth chart. There are four more World Cup qualifiers this year, including the November showdown with Mexico in Cincinnati, and then a potential move abroad over the winter. The spotlight is going to brighten considerably. It could all be dizzying and daunting for this quiet kid from El Paso. But trains are built to stay on track.Pepi’s family was in the Q2 Stadium crowd on Thursday. They moved with him to Dallas, and they’re going to help keep him grounded as his profile soars.“Just being able to say calm, being able to just stay humble. I always talk to my family about a lot of things going on and they always tell me I’ve got to stay humble and I’ve got to keep working,” Pepi said Thursday.“I feel like it’s coming. I don’t know if it’s too fast or if it’s too slow. I feel like it’s coming. Whatever is going to come is going to come, and I feel like I have to be ready for it and be prepared.”

The unstoppable dreams of USMNT prodigy Ricardo Pepi

Oct 6, 2021Roberto José Andrade Franco ESPN 

IN THE TUNNEL of Toyota Stadium, Ricardo Pepi poses during a photo shoot. The late morning feels perfect. The sun casts a shadow over a good part of the grass, which looks as green as anything that’s ever been. The cool breeze rippling through the flags of Texas, the United States and FC Dallas makes it feel like the season is finally changing after another hot summer.

“Do something with your hands,” the photographer tells Ricardo. His voice echoes through the tunnel, as does the sound of the camera. Ricardo spreads his long arms to his side. His palms, near his waist, face out with fingers almost extended. His chin high, he looks straight into the lens.”The Zen pose,” is what the phoographer calls whatever Ricardo’s doing.”You’re a natural,” the photographer says.Ricardo smiles the grin of the rare teenager full of confidence.”I try to be,” says the 18-year-old.His voice lacks any hint of hesitation, as if he understands something no one else knows. Just weeks ago, Pepi made the momentous choice between two countries and joined the USMNT, a team trying to shake off its failure to qualify for the last World Cup. He has proved to be a revelation, scoring a crucial goal in the USA’s win over Honduras on Sept. 8, fulfilling the promise he makes to his family before each game: “I’m gonna score. I’m gonna score. I’m gonna score.”changing, even as he prepares for another round of games this week that will hopefully take him and his teammates to Qatar 2022, he seems so calm, peaceful. It’s like he’s always known it was just a matter of time and hard work before the attention would come. That his and his family’s sacrifices would eventually lead them out of El Paso to here. And that from here, he, and maybe they too, will go somewhere else.Somewhere farther than the 10-hour drive between this place and home.


EL PASO IS about 83% Latino, most of that of Mexican descent. But decades ago, the city was a lot whiter. And back in those days, Alameda Avenue was a sort of dividing line. If you were white, you likely lived north of that street. If Mexican, you stayed south. Between that avenue and the Rio Grande, on the eastern part of El Paso County where land is cheaper and it becomes clear that this is life deep in the Chihuahuan Desert, is San Elizario.San Eli is what everyone here calls it. That’s where Ricardo’s childhood home stands about a mile south of Alameda Avenue and double that distance north of the Rio Grande and the rust-colored border wall that scars the soul of this place. The overgrown weeds, the still-hanging Christmas lights, the empty rooms and the white car with deflating tires parked in the back, make it feel like the home was hastily abandoned. As if an opportunity came up that couldn’t be passed.Like many houses in this neighborhood, the Pepis’ former home looks like it’s still in the process of being constructed. Good enough to live in — the doors and windows lock, the water and electricity work, the roof doesn’t leak — but still unfinished.”I built it,” Daniel, Ricardo’s father, says in Spanish. Whenever extra money came in, it went to the house. Little by little, working on the weekends and after long weekdays doing construction, Daniel built this with his hands.”When Ricardo was growing up, the conditions weren’t the best for us,” Daniel says. “That was part of the reason we lived in San Eli. It wasn’t because we wanted to. I didn’t grow up in a rural area where the roosters wake you up, where the neighbors have cows.”From this house, Daniel and his wife, Annette, raised their young family. It was a life common to many El Pasoans. Monday through Friday, while working or at school, they stayed on the north side of the Rio Grande. On weekends and the random weeknight, the Pepis returned to the south side of the river to spend time with family still living in Juárez, Mexico.”We consider it one city, one community,” Daniel says of El Paso and Juárez. “It doesn’t really matter if you live in El Paso or live in Juárez, you cross that bridge as much as you can.”From this house, Ricardo — the oldest of the three Pepi children — started playing soccer at 4 years old. He’d grown up watching his father play, and Daniel coached him for a few years. Apart from practice, they’d sometimes do drills on a field in the shadow of a church that traces its roots as far back as the U.S. Constitution.Daniel put his son in leagues a year or two above Ricardo’s age. Yes, he did it to push him. To challenge him. But he also did it because Ricardo was always bigger than his peers. His family nickname had once been Gordo. Outside of El Paso, Daniel had to carry his son’s birth certificate to show that he wasn’t older than the competition, he was actually younger.

Ricardo had, what Daniel says in Spanish, “el olfato de gol.” Some words or phrases lose their beauty in translation. This is an example. But the idea is that even at a young age, Ricardo had a nose for goal. Like he could smell it. Like he could feel it. Like he could seemingly score at will — which he often did — even when his father had him playing defense. And as he did that, the opponent’s parents doubted Ricardo’s age again.”QUINCEAÑERO!” those parents screamed, implying the young boy was 15.”¿CUÁNDO ES LA BODA?” they yelled, sarcastically asking when he was getting married.Daniel laughs when he remembers those days. But he turns serious when asked if he feels like he pushed his son too hard. Like during those games when Ricardo didn’t feel like running because sometimes that’s the last thing 7-year-olds want to do. When that happened Daniel would take Ricardo out the game, then drive him home. It’s a long, lonely drive out to San Eli. It’s a perfect stretch of road for a proud man to brood in silence.”Yes, I was hard on him,” Daniel admits.”I’d make him take his uniform and cleats off and put them in the trash. I’d tell him, ‘Look, if you don’t want to play, that’s fine. Don’t play. But you’re not going to be wasting my time and much less, my money.'”WHEN YOU’RE THE child of immigrant parents, you often feel as if you’ve got to make their struggles and sacrifices count for something. Calling it a burden is too much. Call it that feeling you get when you look at your father or mother and wonder what dreams they had before life shook them awake.Because sometimes your mother is 16 years old when she had you. And sometimes your father pawns the family car and borrows money because those can become tomorrow’s problems if it means everyone’s eating today. And sometimes, you live in a place like El Paso and Juárez that are often neglected by their governments, and it feels like you must escape.Like the rest of the communities, largely of Mexican descent, along the north side of the Texas-Mexico border, El Paso County has a substantially higher poverty rate than the rest of the country. Its per capita income is over $12,400 lower than the national average. It has lower levels of educational attainment. It has more than twice the national percentage rate of uninsured residents under 65.It’s why when you come from the El Paso-Juárez borderland — as I do — it’s easy to feel an urgency. It’s disquieting to notice how few things grow here. The barren surroundings don’t help. Out in the wide-open spaces of West Texas and Northern Mexico, it’s easy to get lost.To live here is to feel the questions that are as omnipresent as the mountains surrounding the region and as persistent as the winds racing down from them. On the worst of days that wind howls. It makes the desert floor dance until the sand blocks the sun and turns the sky from a hue of blue to a reddish-brown.That wind can rip the roof off buildings and tear doors from hinges. It can choke and blind you, sometimes worse. It’s on those days when it feels like we should all run away from this desert. Run away from this separate world between two countries. On those days when it sounds like some invisible hand is continually throwing dirt against locked doors and windows, it’s like the wind carries the existential questions that most here wrestle with.If I stay, will being around family and all that I know be enough to make me content?

If I leave, will the things I hope to gain be worth the hurt of missing what I’m about to lose?“IT WAS LIKE they took a piece of my heart,” Annette says, in Spanish, of Ricardo moving to Dallas. It was 2016. Ricardo was 13 years old. FC Dallas offered him a place in their academy. Ricardo said yes. And he left.”The only thing I could do was support my son,” Annette remembers. “It was very difficult. Very difficult.”Those first few weeks when her baby was away from home, Annette cried herself to sleep. In the mornings in between phone calls to her son, asking how his host family was treating him and if he’d already eaten, she’d cry some more.”I can’t be without him,” she’d tell Daniel. “I can’t.”Daniel would try to comfort her, telling her it was what Ricardo wanted. That the only thing they could do is support him. But even for Daniel, that distance became too much.About a year after Ricardo left, his family drove to Dallas for a tournament. Twice a month they’d make that 10-hour, 635-mile drive. Coaches told Daniel that Ricardo was doing very well, and he had a bright future. During the visit, Ricardo told his father he wanted them all to move to Dallas so they could be together again.”Son,” Daniel told Ricardo. “I’m not moving here. We’re not coming.”If that wasn’t deflating enough, Daniel turned the question on Ricardo.”I want to know if you’re ready to come back?”As soon as Daniel asked the question, Ricardo started to cry. Whatever dreams he imagined himself pursuing were suddenly in doubt. To be 13 years old and to say no to the person who’s given you so much feels like the most difficult answer you’ll ever give.In between tears, Ricardo said he understood how hard the distance between them had been, because he felt it too. He missed his family the most, but he also missed El Paso and Juárez. He missed the friends and family on both sides of that river that separates everyone there.”I love you all,” Ricardo told his father. “But this is my dream and I’m going to stay. I’ll miss all of you.”As soon as he heard that, Daniel felt chills. He began to cry. If you’ve seen the tears of a stoic Mexican man hardened by life, it stays with you. They hugged and kissed. Daniel told Annette what was happening, and she told him she was ready to move. “I don’t want to be without him,” she said.Four years ago, the entire Pepi family — father, mother, brother and sister — moved to a suburb north of Dallas. Ricardo left his host family and moved in too. And just like it had in their old house in San Eli, their life revolved around soccer. When they weren’t at games, or at school, or Daniel at some construction site, or Annette cleaning another office, they’d watch Liga MX. And, as always, because the Pepis are “Américanistas de corazón,” they’d cheer for Club América, just like they’d always done.”I was raised watching Mexican soccer,” Daniel says. “And that’s how I raised my children.”So much Mexican soccer — the league, yes, but also El Tri — that as a young boy, Ricardo said something his father still remembers.”Hey dad,” Ricardo told Daniel while watching El Tri play.Maybe they were playing at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Or maybe the Mexican national team was playing in the United States, where they’re this country’s most popular team. Who knows?”Imagine when I’m playing there,” Ricardo said. “I WAS 99 percent sure he was going to pick Mexico,” Manny Ruiz says.Ruiz, an FC Dallas season-ticket owner, is also a member of El Matador. They’re a bilingual group of FC Dallas supporters who during tailgates, play salsa and rap, and talk to each other in some combination of English and Spanish. Ruiz first watched Ricardo play in 2019, back when the precocious teen was a member of North Texas SC and scored a hat trick in his first professional game. Born and raised in Dallas, Ruiz is also a fan of El Tri.And so, after a summer of watching Ricardo score at an increasing pace with FC Dallas — including becoming the youngest player in MLS history to notch a hat trick — Ruiz figured the dual national kid from El Paso would choose Mexico. Yes, Ricardo had attended international youth camps with both countries and was a member of the United States’ 2019 U-17 World Cup squad. Still, there has long been a perception that players coming from the U.S.’s Latino communities, playing in city leagues and not expensive suburban academies, get taken for granted, at best. At worst, the system ignores them. About two weeks before Ricardo decided, Mexican American player David Ochoa said he was playing for Mexico.

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Then in late August, a day after Ricardo scored the game-winning penalty for the MLS All-Stars to beat the Liga MX All Stars, the USMNT announced its roster for World Cup qualifying. They’d called up Ricardo and he said yes. When he announced his decision, Ricardo said that even though he’d chosen the United States, he was proud of being a Mexican American and that “will never be taken away from me, no matter what national team I play for.””I was pretty devastated,” Ruiz says of Ricardo’s decision. As soon as it became public, the USMNT fans within El Matador called Ruiz to taunt him. It hardly mattered that they too were surprised.”I was in shock,” Miguel Villalpando says. Villalpando, born and raised in Oak Cliff — a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Dallas — first heard about Ricardo when he played in the FC Dallas Academy. Villalpando says he immediately started paying attention to him because of their similarities. “He’s pretty much a Chicano,” he says, a term that describes someone of Mexican heritage born in the United States.”He’s from here and his parents are from Mexico. You have to take pride in that, especially him being with FC Dallas along with me being a U.S. fan.”To hear Villalpando tell how he, of Mexican descent, became a fan of the USMNT, it almost sounds like the origin story of a comic book villain. He was about 11, and the United States was about to play Mexico. “My dad was like, ‘a quién le vas? A Estados Unidos o México?‘” Which team did he want to win: United States or Mexico?But before he could say anything, his father — from Irapuato, Guanajuato — answered for him. “Ah, tú eres Chicanito, you have to go for the USA.”Villalpando, who laughs while telling the story and sprinkles Spanish words in every few sentences of conversation, admits it was his father’s way of being playful. But still, not every game is fun.”He was trying to insult me,” Villalpando says. “But I took it as I’m going to embrace this. Ever since that, I’ve always been a U.S. fan because my dad did that to me.”Friends and family — often playfully — call him a traitor. They tell him he should remember where he and his parents came from. And before each United States versus Mexico game, they tell him to get ready to lose. “I’m used to that,” Villalpando says, “it’s happened ever since I was a little kid. To me, it’s nothing.”During this long, scorching summer, the United States beat Mexico twice in the final of two different tournaments.Ruiz says that hurt. He says if Ricardo ever scores against Mexico, that’ll hurt too.Villalpando says that felt great. He says he’ll soon buy Ricardo’s USMNT jersey.BETWEEN PHOTOSHOOT LOCATIONS, Ricardo says choosing to play for the United States was one of the toughest decisions of his life. “I talked to my parents about it,” he says, standing a few feet from the pitch so unlike the ones he grew up playing on in El Paso. Those were full of rocks and weeds with thorns that’d get stuck to his shoes, laces and socks.”I got the call-up from the national team,” Ricardo says. “I asked my dad for his opinion, and he didn’t really say much. He said wherever I wanted to play, he would support me.”Like Daniel, the rest of the Pepi family, immediate and extended, have supported Ricardo’s decision, even if some still ask about it. Ricardo’s friends back in El Paso have been supportive too. They’ve even bought their USMNT jerseys with “Pepi” on the back.Still, Ricardo says he knows there are a lot of people and even media who think he should have chosen Mexico. Explaining only that it was a better opportunity, he says he made the right choice.Whenever he talks of that decision — he’s asked the same question in each of his increasing number of interviews — there’s zero doubt in his voice. He’s calm and at peace just like he is before every game, when he sits in silence and meditates. “This all has a lot to do with the mind,” he says. “If you’re prepared for it, if you expect it, then it’s going to come.”But just because he’s at peace with the decision doesn’t mean he can ignore what’s about to come. On Nov. 12, the United States plays Mexico and there isn’t a Zen with an energy strong enough for Ricardo to pretend it’ll be just another game. To not feel any type of emotion when he hears the Mexican national anthem play, and he’s not singing along. Maybe even cry, since members of El Tri and their fans have been known to do just that.Ricardo says that game will be different. He knows two countries will be watching and the line between who cheers for whom isn’t always clear. He knows he could become the first Mexican American superstar on the USMNT, and that there will always be those who think he made the wrong choice.He knows his father’s dream was once to have a son play for El Tri. But now, Ricardo knows he has his father’s full support.”With all due respect,” Daniel says, “I’m still Mexican, and continue to love my country, but right now, my jersey is that of the United States.” I DON’T QUITE remember when I figured out that even if I wasn’t physically there, I could never escape living in a borderland. That away from this place between the United States and Mexico, I’d always feel a barrier between me and whatever place I lived. That while here, I’d feel the closest sense to belonging in the middle of the river that both divides and unites El Paso and Juárez. That’s the thing about this place. It’s a lot of things and some of them are contradictory.It sometimes feels like the most beautiful place in the world. Other times, it feels like living in the middle of the desert was always going to end with an escape. That same rugged beauty can inspire the wildest of dreams: a young boy playing soccer in Europe’s biggest leagues, a former construction worker writing this. But it’s also the type of place that can suffocate you.

So, you leave because there’s no other choice. But sometimes running away creates a sense of guilt.Leaving can cause irreparable damages to bonds once so strong you would have bet they could withstand any distance. Leaving makes you understand that the farther away you are, the less likely you’ll ever feel at home.”Whenever I get a chance, I try to make it over there,” Ricardo says of the borderland. He misses the culture, how everyone’s friendly and humble and how Spanish is what you most often hear on both sides of the Rio Grande. He misses his family. The season is long, so it’s harder to return. But, he says, when he’s back, on Saturday mornings he likes to eat barbacoa in Juárez at a place called El Chivo Brincon.

“You ever eat there?” Ricardo asks me.When I tell him I’ve never been, he responds with an incredulous “nooooo” that goes on for at least two seconds. I tell him the place we used to eat was a simple cart next to a gas station that, if it had a name, was ignored.”Everyone called it ‘el güey de la gasolinera,'” I tell him. The f—ing guy at the gas station.We laugh and the people around us don’t even know why.Unless you’re from here, you’ll never know how comforting it feels to meet an El Pasoan or a Juárense away from this place. It’s difficult to describe but it’s in the way they talk, especially when the conversation turns to Spanish. It’s in the music they listen to and the food that they eat. It’s in the shared memories of this place.It’s in the interaction. Because, if nothing else, for once, you don’t have to explain where you come from. No need to explain how much you miss i. Or the struggle to stay or leave.No need to explain how the border wall never looks as jarring as it does when you leave and go back.Or that, because it feels like it has always been there, sometimes that goddamned wall becomes just another part of the desert.


“IT’S IMPOSSIBLE,” DANIEL says when asked to describe his emotions when he heard Ricardo was starting the World Cup qualifier against Honduras.The game before, against Canada, the Pepi family traveled to Nashville. Since the USMNT played a scoreless tie in El Salvador, a game in which Ricardo didn’t get any playing time, Daniel figured his son would get 10 or 15 minutes in Tennessee.”We traveled there with that hope,” Daniel says. “Unfortunately, he didn’t play. And to be honest, the U.S. only got two points in two games, I figured he wasn’t going to play much, if at all, against Honduras.”Two games into qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, and the USMNT looked lost. The team had been expected to win both games and managed only draws. For fans, those results awoke dark memories of the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.That’s why the game against Honduras mattered. And why Daniel figured Ricardo wouldn’t play, since he was unproven. Of course, look at it from the opposite angle and it becomes clear that whatever USMNT had done wasn’t working. And so, on the plane to Honduras, Gregg Berhalter — maybe coaching for his job — told Ricardo he was starting.Daniel was driving around Waco, Texas, where he works Monday through Friday, when he heard the news.”Are you playing with me?” he asked Ricardo, the surprise so great that Daniel had pulled off the road.”No,” Ricardo answered.At halftime, losing 1-0, and again, thoughts that everything might be coming apart for the USMNT — maybe even thoughts that they’d chosen the wrong country — Daniel worried Ricardo would get replaced. Not because he was playing badly, but because it was his first start.”I see him starting the second half,” Daniel says, “and how he’s playing. I tell my wife, ‘A goal’s coming, a goal’s coming, a goal’s coming.’ And then it comes.”In the 75th minute, Ricardo’s header broke the tie, 2-1. And as he — the second youngest player to play for the United States in a World Cup qualifier, after teammate Christian Pulisic — ran and screamed and jumped in celebration with his teammates, his family did the same at home. All celebrating the euphoria of what Ricardo calls “a goal that changed the game completely.” A goal that, at least for one game, broke the USMNT free from the panic and doubt and insecurity that had surrounded them.”There wasn’t enough room in our hearts to fit such emotion,” Daniel says. Sitting beside him, Annette also jumped and screamed. She cried. Because that’s what she always does when Ricardo scores.”My son has always said that he was going to be a professional. That he was going to play on a European club. And always, always, always, when he scores, I get tears of happiness and joy,” Annette says. As she talks, her voice begins to crack.”I know this is his dream,” she says of her son, who finished his USMNT debut with a goal and two assists to beat Honduras 4-1.”That game was special,” says the teenager from the edge of two countries.RICARDO STANDS BY his Camaro. It’s the last photoshoot location of the day.His car, a symbol of American muscle, looks as red and shiny as a candy apple. He got it about a month ago. It’s the first car he has ever bought for himself. And when he parks it, he’s careful not to touch the windows when closing the door. He doesn’t want his fingertips staining the tinted glass.”It’s been crazy,” Ricardo says about the past few months. He says he gets recognized lots more. Fans approach him and ask him for an autograph, and some — more than before — tell him they’re from El Paso too.Watching him play against men, it’s easy to forget how young Ricardo is. That, somewhere in the middle of his life-changing season, he graduated from high school. That he still lives at home with his parents. That when he’s not scoring goals, he takes out the trash, walks the dog and occasionally washes dishes.Ricardo misses home. But he has no second thoughts about the choices he has made. He says he understands how much his family has risked. They left the comfort and familiarity of El Paso and Juárez for Dallas, a giant of a city. Four years of living there, and they still use GPS to get around.This place is where they live now. For how much longer? No one knows. Soccer rumors mention Ricardo’s name along with some of the world’s biggest clubs in Germany, Italy, England and the Netherlands. Daniel says the family thinks about that every day.”But we don’t think of it as wondering what comes next,” Daniel says. “We know what comes next. He’s long visualized his path. He knows where he wants to go, and the path to get there.”But no matter where he, or they, as a family, live, they speak as if they too know you can’t escape the El Paso-Juárez borderland. They still own that unfinished house in San Eli. They talk about visiting as much as they can, crossing that bridge that divides and connects home. They say it never feels like enough. Because even if Ricardo chooses to play for the United States instead of Mexico, they all seem more comfortable in that place between those two countries.It’s like the last thing they want to do is forget where they come from. It’s why even if Ricardo and his magical right foot play for the United States, they only speak Spanish at home.Roberto José Andrade Franco is a fronterizo from the El Paso-Juárez borderland. Follow him @R_AndradeFranco to read more of his work.

Pepi decision proving big for U.S. as goal scoring star

JIM VERTUNO   Thu, October 7, 2021, 11:05 PM EDT·3 min read

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Just two months ago, Ricardo Pepi didn’t know which national team he wanted to play for.He ultimately picked the United States over Mexico, a choice that is paying off in a big way for the Americans.It likely will pay big for him personally as well, as every goal he scores will be driving up the price as clubs in Europe’s top leagues are reportedly interested in signing the 18-year-old marksman.Pepi scored both second-half goals for the U.S. in a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier Thursday night. That gives him three goals in two qualifying matches — both key victories for the Americans in their quest to return to the World Cup next year — after deciding to play for the U.S., where he was born, instead of Mexico, where his parents are from.Pepi’s bouncing header early in the second half broke the deadlock and his one-touch shot past the Jamaican goalkeeper on a break sealed the victory. The goals made him youngest American ever to score in consecutive World Cup qualifiers and established him as the team’s offensive engine.“We’re all excited. We’re sitting here and we’re on the (Pepi) train,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “What you see and what I really like, he has this instinct (to score). It’s really hard to teach that to players.”Major League Soccer already knows how lightning can strike off his feet or head. He has 13 goals for FC Dallas this season and scored twice in a 5-3 win in Austin in the same stadium as Thursday night’s match.Born in El Paso to parents who hail from just across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Pepi grew up in a home with strong cultural influences from both countries. That included watching the Mexican national team and Liga MX, the Mexican domestic league.

He had played or trained with both U.S. and Mexican youth teams, and scored three goals for the U.S. in qualifying for the 2019 Under-17 World Cup.Still, it was just in August when Pepi described his pending decision between the U.S. and Mexican national teams as “very hard” and one that could go “either way.” He had been in talks with representatives from both national teams during the Gold Cup tournament last summer.Mexico will rue its loss.“I feel like I worked just to be able to be on the squad, be able to represent my country. I feel like a made a big decision and like I said when I made my decision, I was going to give my all to the team and that’s what I’m doing,” Pepi said Thursday night.Pepe was called up to U.S. national team shortly after making his decision. He sat out a 0-0 draw at El Salvador and a 1-1 result against Canada. He then becoming the second-youngest player to ever start for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier in a Sept. 8 match at Honduras.He made the most of his debut. The Americans trailed at halftime before storming back with four goals. Pepi assisted on one goal, then headed in another in the comeback.“An 18-year-old gets an opportunity and takes advantage of it,” Berhalter said.

The USMNT’s Next Big Thing secures another World Cup qualifying win

Henry Bushnell

Thu, October 7, 2021, 9:36 PM EDT

Ricardo Pepi is 18 years old and has tugged on a U.S. national team jersey just twice. He is also, as of Thursday night, the biggest reason the United States will likely qualify for the 2022 World Cup.Two months ago, he was a promising teen undecided on his international soccer future.

Now, he’s a burgeoning USMNT hero.

On Thursday at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, Pepi scored his second consecutive winner in just his second U.S. game. His 49th-minute header beat Jamaica, and sent the U.S. to the top of North and Central America’s World Cup qualifying table.His second goal of the night, 13 minutes later, punctuated a 2-0 U.S. win. The Americans will head to Panama this weekend with eight points from four games, with growing confidence, and with a striker who could inspire more of it for years to come.”Pepi! Pepi!” the fans in his home state chanted. “Pepi! Pepi!”Pepi was born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican-American parents, and could have represented either the country of his birth or that of his family’s heritage. He grew up “immersed” in that heritage, in Mexican culture, regularly crossing the border to Ciudad Juarez to visit relatives and friends.But for soccer, he moved to the Dallas suburbs. In late August, he chose the USMNT. In September, head coach Gregg Berhalter chose Pepi for the first time, and that decision changed the arc of the Americans’ World Cup qualifying journey.At halftime in Honduras, they were in a hole. Over 45 rousing second-half minutes, Pepi rose to the occasion, literally and figuratively. He powered home a header and clinched a comeback. He established himself as both the striker of the future and the striker of the now.

He entered October’s qualifying window as Berhalter’s clear choice to lead the line. And against Jamaica, he showed why.

He was quiet in the first half. But, as he said postgame, “it’s about being patient.” He was ruthless in the second. And he was the ideal frontman for a USMNT learning on the fly that, to unlock the potential of the world’s youngest roster, it must play fast.

The young, unheralded stars of the USMNT’s victory

In its first home qualifier last month, against Canada, the USMNT moved the ball painfully slow. It lacked urgency, lacked problem-solvers, lacked risk-takers. Toward the end of a scoreless first half against Jamaica on Thursday, those familiar problems reappeared. But early in the second half, goalkeeper Matt Turner started the move that spurred the turnaround. He claimed a tame Jamaica through-ball, then rushed to his feet and bowled the ball into the path of Sergiño Dest.Dest carried it over the halfway line, and found Yunus Musah. Musah propelled the U.S. forward, providing the ball progression that his team so often lacks. He charged at the penalty box, unsettling opponents. He fed Dest, who’d been freed by a clever out-to-in run from Paul Arriola. Dest crossed for Pepi, who broke the deadlock.The Jamaican defense, which bunkered and stymied the U.S for much of the first half, never got set.It was in those unscripted, unstable moments that the Americans were at their best. Then, with the lead, and with Jamaica forced to exit the comforts of its shell, space opened up. In the 62nd minute, the U.S. connected at least a dozen passes, pinging the ball side to side, pulling Jamaicans this way and that. Passing lanes widened.Tyler Adams found one, up the left flank to Antonee Robinson. Brenden Aaronson, who made a strong case for man of the match, sprinted in behind, set up Pepi’s second, and sealed the win.(Original video: ESPN) The caveat, of course, is that it’s only Jamaica, at home, the easiest of the 14 games that this qualifying gauntlet will offer. Panama won’t be as kind, nor will Costa Rica next week. Mexico, next month, will be tougher yet.“The trap is gonna be us thinking we’re great, and us thinking we’ve qualified for the World Cup,” Berhalter said. “And if we do that, we’ll get our ass kicked in Panama on Sunday.”But the hype is justified, because the players driving it are relative infants. Dest is 20. Aaronson is 20. Musah is 18. Adams, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, the so-called veterans, are 22, 23 and 23. Gio Reyna — who, like Pulisic, was unavailable due to injury — is 18.

And then there’s Pepi, also still a teen, playing his first World Cup qualifier in front of his parents, completely unfazed. Top European clubs are already circling. Pundits are already wondering whether this is all happening too fast.

But Pepi isn’t wondering. Nor are his teammates. Nor is Berhalter.

“We’re all excited. I mean, we’re just sittin’ there, and we’re on the train,” the coach said of his newfound star. “We’re just observing everything that’s happening. It’s amazing.”

Positives & negatives from the USMNT win vs. Jamaica – and what’s to come vs. Panama

By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76 Friday, Oct 8, 2021, 12:26 PM

The US men’s national team got it done again Thursday night, putting together a never-actually-in-doubt-if-occasionally-a-bit-frustrating 2-0 win over Jamaica in Austin during both teams’ fourth game of this final round of World Cup qualifying.

Thanks to the win — their second straight, and second straight by multiple goals — and some help elsewhere, the US now top the Octagonal standings on goal differential. A tepid and nervous and at times borderline calamitous start to World Cup qualifying has smoothed out into something closer to what we all hoped to see from this very talented, but still impossibly young bunch.

So, things are good right now. When I wrote this column a month ago it was hard to start with the positive takeaways and the list was short. Now, as I’m writing this, I feel like I’m about to go on for a bit.

Positive takeaways

The biggest, most important thing from this game was not the play of any one particular player or the execution of any one particular attacking sequence. The biggest, most important thing is that the US played a straightforward 4-3-3 with few bells and whistles, and every player was in their best, most comfortable position.

So a lot of the good things that happened out there — and there were a ton of good things, even if the scoreline didn’t indicate a blowout — just sort of flowed naturally from how the US were arranged by head coach Gregg Berhalter. Ditto for who was out there in key spots.

Let me phrase it this way: When I saw the USMNT’s starting XI come out and visualized what this team would look like on the field, what I saw in my mind looked very much like what I eventually saw on the pitch.

That kind of predictability is good. When you have superior talent (and in my opinion the US will have superior talent in literally every game they play in the Ocho, barring a cascade of injuries), that isn’t just good: It’s match-winning.

And it will get this program back to the World Cup.

• The entire second half was an expression of how comfortable the players were in this scheme, and it highlighted some of the outstanding skills of a few of them. Berhalter talked, on ESPN’s halftime interview, about the need to move the ball forward with a bit more speed and bravery, and then three minutes into the second half this happened:

The reason Jamaica never get set is because Matt Turner takes zero time with his distribution, collecting from one side and immediately rolling out to Sergino Dest for a transition opportunity. Dest then makes a simple play, sliding it inside to Yunus Musah, who drives forward at the Jamaica backline and forces them to make a play or just keep retreating forever.

When they decide to keep retreating forever, Musah himself makes the simple play, sliding back to Dest on the overlap. Dest has the whole wing to himself because of the hard, unselfish, dangerous run Paul Arriola made.

That goal ended up being an 18-year-old to a 20-year-old to an 18-year-old.

• When Berhalter talks about verticality (and he’s talked about verticality A LOT), he doesn’t just mean the likes of Arriola or Brenden Aaronson running in behind. He also means sequences like this, where the US push the ball forward against a scrambling defense, and where one of the central midfielders takes the responsibility to be brave on the ball and punish them.

Musah’s game is tailor-made for that. His first 45 minutes were kind of invisible, which is to be expected from an 18-year-old making his World Cup qualifying debut. But in the second half I thought he was the best US player, the one who most often turned those scrambled Jamaican moments into true danger for the US.

He finished the night 18-for-19 passing into the final third, just a godsend of a “pass before the pass” guy. Getting this kid was a recruiting coup by Berhalter. He is my favorite player in the pool.

• Back to the other type of verticality: Arriola set the tone within 25 seconds, getting behind the Jamaican backline and earning what should have been a red card on Kemar Lawrence. The D.C. United attacker was clean through. Lawrence was spared the sending-off by a timid ref, but by the end of the night he might’ve wished he saw red because Arriola ran him into the ground:

Fpositives-negatives-from-the-usmnt-win-vs-jamaica-and-what-s-to-come-vs-panama&sessionId=a87cbb5d761190aca214c6c0e468b3b65d97115d&theme=light&widgetsVersion=fcb1942%3A1632982954711&width=550px Lawrence is Jamaica’s safety valve, and easily their best at progressing the ball from back to front. When they run out of ideas they funnel play to him. But because of the energy Arriola expended, that Reggae Boyz strategy was useless. Lawrence was a non-factor and so they generated nothing up their left side all night, instead having to rely upon Alvas Powell and the aged (or should I call him “Timeless?”) Je-Vaughn Watson.

It didn’t work out well for them.

• As the tweet says, Arriola’s end product was lacking. But he earned what should’ve been a red card there, and hit the defense-splitting through-ball that put Aaronson through later in the half (and was again not given as a red card). He also made side-clearing runs like on the goal, which opened space for Dest to get forward.

The defense, though. Man. One of the scariest things about Jamaica is that any semi-accurate clearance can turn into a breakaway, so it’s incumbent upon the whole front line to close down hard and make those clearances rushed, hopeful and un-targeted.

Arriola, Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi took that to heart. No Jamaica defender ever had a chance to pick up his head and dime it into space for Shamar Nicholson (who I love, and who some MLS team should sign as a DP) or any of the wingers.

Defense starts at the front, and the entire frontline was excellent defensively.

• That excellent defensive performance from the wingers meant that both fullbacks could and did get forward often, and at pace. That’s exactly how you want a 4-3-3 to function against a low block.

• This was Musah’s World Cup qualifying debut, as well as Walker Zimmerman‘s in central defense. They were two of the three best US players (Zimmerman, who started over young Chris Richards and Mark McKenzie, was absolutely the correct call in order to battle Nicholson. Hat tip to Berhalter on that one).

Luca de la Torre and Tim Weah came off the bench to make their World Cup qualifying debuts in the second half and they looked very, very good — Weah was a constant menace, and de la Torre really loves to drive the game forward with the ball, a la Musah. Never forget that this man posted his way into a World Cup qualifier.

Shaq Moore also made his WCQ debut, coming in for Dest over the final 15 minutes and putting in an unremarkable (I mean that in a good way) shift.

• Weston McKennie was back and put in what Berhalter deemed a “professional” performance. I think that was an apt description.

• I can think of no greater compliment to Aaronson, Tyler Adams, Miles Robinson and Matt Turner than “I was supremely confident each would put forth the exact type of performance we ended up seeing.” Those four guys have all managed a high level of quality and consistency to the point where it’s kinda boring to talk about them, isn’t it?

Though I will note it was fun to see Adams dropping deep to split the center backs occasionally in build-up play. He seems to relish those moments.

• The subs were sensible and point toward a smarter approach to squad rotation this window, I thought. Berhalter did a poor job of keeping the roster balanced and his players fresh last window, but he looks to have learned his lesson and took the chance to get rest for crucial players. Everything seems positioned to lean on a mix of veteran starters and backups — guys like Kellyn AcostaSebastian Lletget and George Bello are likely to see big minutes down in Panama, and guys like Aaronson and Pepi were spared playing the full 90 so should have something left in the tank — over the next two games, which means that the US should stay fresh throughout the full 270 minutes.

• One more Berhalter-related positive: When he was coaching the Columbus Crew, his teams were best known for attacking patterns of play that ended up with whoever happened to be his center forward getting a one-touch finish in the box. Gyasi Zardes, Ola Kamara and Kei Kamara all had their very best years playing in Berhalter’s system.

When he was named national team head coach, I assumed that’s what we were going to get. Maybe the US would be a little too naive defensively at times or too rigid about playing out of the back, but dammit, they’d create chances!

It’s been the opposite of that. The US, under Berhalter, have strangled the hell out of almost everyone defensively, and haven’t really been punished for playing out of the back since 2019.

At the same time, they have done a poor job of creating repeatable, high-level chances.

Until last night. Last night, in the second half, the US suddenly looked like the 2018 Crew:

Those are goals and chances off of repeatable sequences of play.

That second half was dominant. It was a version of the US I’d been hoping to see for a long, long time.

And now for the negative

Hopefully on Sunday in Panama (6 pm ET | Paramount+, Universo) they’re able to execute from the jump.

• The end product from Arriola and Gyasi needs to be better. I am a big “process” guy and the process was really, really good for the US. But these two guys are fighting for minutes and while I sang Arriola’s praises (you should, too) and Gyasi constantly put pressure on Jamaica’s backline, eventually those roles require more than great defense and precise runs. The ball has to hit the back of the net.

• The lack of 1-v-1 ability from the wingers was telling at times, at least until Weah came in. Aaronson and Arriola are both much more about stretching the field off the ball and quick combination play, and aren’t great off the dribble even when they’ve got a defender backpedaling.

• US set-piece delivery was generally really, really really poor. Really poor. Bad, even.

• Dest, who had his best game for the US (only one true defensive lapse that I noted), limped off injured. It didn’t look bad but that’s now two games in a row he’s had to come off with a knock.

I didn’t expect Dest to play against Panama anyway — he’s really not made for road qualifiers — but it’s a mild concern going forward.

What it means at Panama

Win at home, draw on the road is the path to Qatar. A point in Panama City would be fine.

That said, even if Berhalter opts for heavy squad rotation (which I suspect will be the case), the US will have a pronounced talent advantage in this game. Thomas Christiansen’s men played well in the September window, including a 3-0 evisceration of Jamaica in Jamaica, but they started October with a listless 1-0 loss at El Salvador on Thursday night.

Panama, like so many of the other tough Central American teams of the past decade, are in a bit of generational flux right now and haven’t been able to backfill as the golden generation of guys like Blas Perez, Jaime Penedo and Roman Torres have aged out.

So expect to see a lot of familiar 30-somethings — Nashville‘s Anibal Godoy, former TFC man Armando Cooper, former Rapid Gabriel Torres and former ‘Quake Harold Cummings (he’s 29, but still) — throughout Christiansen’s 4-4-2 formation.

I don’t think they’ll sit back; home teams rarely do. El Salvador didn’t, and Honduras didn’t. But thus far they haven’t really shown the ability to create danger via possession, and any midfield turnover should present an opportunity for the US to go at pace directly at the Panamanian goal.

USMNT analysis

Analysis: Pepi & Aaronson lead the U.S. past Jamaica 2-0 in Austin

The United States turned in its most complete performance of World Cup qualifying on Thursday in a 2-0 win over Jamaica in Austin. The Ricardo Pepi train continued to roll on scoring both goals, but the FC Dallas teenager was far from the only positive in this game. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta watched the 

10/6/21  USA vs Jamaica Thur 7:30 ESPN2, Italy/Spain 2:45 ESPN, Belgium/France Thur 2:45, HS Sectionals continue, NWSL resumes

US Men vs Jamaica  Thurs 7:30 pm  ESPN2

The US men return to action with the 2nd leg of World Cup Qualifiers on Thurs night vs Jamaica at 7:30 pm on ESPN2.   Of course Pulisic and Reyna are both missing as they are both still injured from the last round of qualifiers, also missing in John Brooks (back) and Tim Ream (personal reasons).  Returning to the fold is midfielder Weston McKinney, along with phenom forward Ricardo Pepi along with the return of Gyasi Zardes. Obviously the US needs to win the home qualifying games especially and hopefully get at least 7 of 9 points out of this round of play.   I will be headed to Columbus for the US vs Costa Rica game next Wednesday Oct 13th – let me know if you are going and we can hoop up downtown before the game.  Also I am desperately looking for US vs Mexico Tickets in November – (willing to pay over cost for 1 or 2 or 4 tickets) please let me know if you have extras. 

USMNT roster for October World Cup qualifiers

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United),  Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Shaq Moore (Tenerife), Walker Zimmermann (Nashville), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Tim Weah (Lille), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Here’s the schedule (all times ET):

  • Thursday, Oct. 7 — vs. Jamaica (7:45 p.m., ESPN2, Univision, TUDN)
  • Sunday, Oct. 10 — at Panama (6 p.m., Paramount+, Universo)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13 — vs. Costa Rica (7 p.m., ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN)  Columbus

Who Shane likes to start vs Jamaica

Pepi

Aaronson/Weah

McKennie/Lletget or Musah  

Adams

Robinson/Mark McKenzie/Miles Robinson/Dest

Steffan

High School Sectionals Continue

Please send prayers for Guerin Men’s Coach Chris McGrath as he is battling Covid 19 and has been in the hospital since mid-September.  Ranked No. 3 in Class 2A by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association, the Guerin Golden Eagles (8-4) are scheduled to host Cardinal Ritter in the Sectional 26 semifinals (7:30 p.m.) tonight at  Guerin.  The Carmel Boys defeated Guerin 3-0 last week as they head to sectionals at Westfield High ranked 10th in the state.  The CHS Boys will be at the Westfield sectional starting tonight, Oct 6th with Pike as the first matchup on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm tickets avail for $6 per session or $10 for the entire tourney – they follow Zionsville at North Central at 5:30 pm.  Three of the teams are in the top 12 of the state.  Good luck to our local teams ! 

The #3 Ranked CHS Girls are hosting their sectional at Murray Stadium and play Wednesday night at Murray Stadium vs Guerin Catholic at 5:30 pm followed by North Central vs Pike at 7:30 pm.  Tickets avail for $6 per session or $10 for the entire tourney.

CARMEL GIRLS SECTIONAL at Murray Stadium  $6/session,  $10/entire sectional

Wednesday

M2: Carmel vs. Guerin Catholic, 5:30 p.m.

M3: North Central (Indianapolis) vs. Pike, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday

M4: Zionsville vs. Westfield, 5:30 p.m.

M5: M2 vs. M3, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Championship: M4 vs. M5, 7 p.m.

GIRLS SECTIONALS

8. Hamilton Southeastern (6): Anderson, #20 Fishers, #4 Hamilton Southeastern, Muncie Central, #1 Noblesville, Pendleton Heights
9. Ben Davis (7): Avon, Ben Davis, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Indianapolis Shortridge, Mooresville, Plainfield
10. Carmel (7): #10 Carmel, #13 Guerin Catholic, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, #6 North Central (Indianapolis), Pike, Westfield, #10 Zionsville

Westfield Boys SECTIONAL $6/session,  $10/entire sectional

Wednesday

M3: Zionsville vs. North Central, 5:30 p.m.

M4: Carmel vs. Pike, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Championship: M3 vs. M4, 2 p.m.

GUERIN Boys SECTIONAL $6/session,  $10/entire sectional

Wednesday

M3: Lebanon vs. Brebeuf Jesuit, 5:30 p.m.

M4: Guerin Catholic vs. Cardinal Ritter, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Championship: M3 vs. M4, 2 p.m.

Boys Sectionals –

8. Noblesville (6): Anderson, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Muncie Central, Noblesville, Pendleton Heights

10. Westfield (6): Carmel, Indianapolis Shortridge, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike, Westfield, Zionsville
11. Lawrence North (7): Franklin Central, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, Warren Central

26. Guerin Catholic (7): Brebeuf, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Lebanon, Western Boone

UEFA Nations League Finals Wed/Thur/Sat this week

The UEFA Nations League finals with a European Cup rematch between Italy and Spain gets underway today at 2:45 pm on ESPN.  The winner will meet the winners of the #1 Ranked Team in the World Belgium and 5th Ranked France on Thursday at 2:45 pm on ESPN.  The finals  will be Sunday at 2:45 pm on ESPN with coverage starting at 2 pm.  The 3rd place game is at 9 am on ESPNU.  I like Italy and Belgium with Belgium and coach Roberto Martinez winning it before he leaves to take the Barcelona job a few weeks from now. 

USA


How will the USMNT line up vs Jamaica without Brooks, Pulisic, Reyna?

‘This kid has it’: Brenden Aaronson at center stage of USA’s World Cup push

5 key questions for USMNT in World Cup qualifiers

Adams: US was `just a little bit naive’ in early qualifiers

US vs Jamaica W2W4 S&S


FIFA clears Julian Araujo to switch from USMNT to Mexico

Nations League

Spain’s setbacks demonstrate why La Roja need a reset
Deschamps, World Cup holders France must use Nations League to rediscover their best form
  Julien Laurens
Deschamps brushes off Mbappe controversy ahead of Belgium clash

France face Belgium hoping to banish memories of Euro flop

World Cup Qualifying


Mexico World Cup qualifying: Can Lozano, Jimenez shine vs. Canada, Honduras, El Salvador?
 
Eric Gomez

Can Brazil seal World Cup qualification? What about the rest?10hTim Vickery

Focussed Brazil have one eye on World Cup qualification
Euro 2024 boss Lahm opposed to biennial World Cup project

African players in Europe: Brilliant Salah set to overtake Drogba

NWSL


NWSL’s Paul Riley controversy points to a bigger problem in which league repeatedly fails its players
 
1dCaitlin Murray
NWSL Sponsors Hang On as Scandals and Resignations Roil League

Washington Spirit CEO Steve Baldwin resigns amid allegations

NWSL faces reckoning amid claims of abuse, sexual misconduct among coaches

US Olympian Morgan slams NWSL’s handling of sexual harassment claims

NWSL Commissioner Baird resigns amid scandal

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

WEDNESDAY   WCQ  

2:45 pm  ESPN             Italy vs Spain (Nations League Semi)

THURSDAY   WCQ  

2:45 pm  ESPN             Belgium vs France (Nations League Semi)

7:45 pm Paramount+ USA vs Jamaica

9:40 pm Univision, P+ Mexico vs Canada

FRIDAY   WCQ  

2:45 pm  ESPN2           Cech Republic vs Wales

2”45 pm ESPN +           Turkey vs Norway

2:45 pm ESPN+            Germany vs Romania

SAT    WCQ  

2:45 pm  ESPN+           Androra vs England

2:45 pm ESPN +           Switzerland vs Northern Ireland  

2:45 pm ESPN+            Poland vs San Marino

6 pm Univision             NYRB vs Inter Miami

9 pm ESPN+                  Seattle vs Vancouver

SUN    WCQ  

9 am ESPNU                  UEFA Nations League 3rd place

2:45 pm ESPN               UEFA Nations League FINALS

3 pm ESPN+                  Minn vs Colorado

5 pm FUBO                   Colombia vs Brazil

5pm Paramount+        USA Pregame Show

6 pm Paramount+       USA @ Panama

7 pm Univision, P+      Mexico vs Honduras

7:30 pm fubo                Argentina vs Uruguay

MON 10/12    WCQ  

2:45 pm  ESPN2           Denmark vs Austria  

2:45 pm ESPN +           England vs Hungary  

2:45 pm ESPN+            Poland vs Albania

TUES 10/13    WCQ  

9 am ESPNU                  UEFA Nations League 3rd place

3 pm ESPN+                  Minn vs Colorado

5 pm FUBO                   Colombia vs Brazil

5pm Paramount+        USA Pregame Show

6 pm Paramount+       USA @ Panama

7 pm Univision, P+      Mexico vs Honduras

7:30 pm fubo                Argentina vs Uruguay

ednesday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN)  Italy vs. Spain

On the men’s side of things in Europe, this month’s FIFA window starts with the Nations League’s final four. The first semifinal pits the reigning European champion against the team it beat in this summer’s semifinals to win the crown.yBoth teams bring glittering arrays of young talent to this game at Milan’s famed San Siro stadium: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Nicolò Barella and Manuel Locatelli for Italy, and Bryan Gil, Gavi, and Ferran Torres for Spain.

THURSDAY 

Thursday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN)  Belgium vs. France

Belgium is the No. 1 team in FIFA’s global rankings and France is No. 4. Both teams are stacked with some of global soccer’s biggest stars, including Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku and France’s Kylian Mbappé. But the game’s brightest spotlight likely won’t be on the players in the second Nations League semifinal, which will be played in Turn, Italy.Belgium manager Roberto Martínez has been linked pretty loudly with Barcelona in recent weeks, as the Spanish club considered firing Ronald Koeman. Barcelona president Joan Laporta said Saturday that Koeman’s job is safe, but some of the Spanish media — to say nothing of fans worldwide — don’t believe it.

United States vs. Jamaica

Thursday, 7:45 p.m. (ESPN2, Univision 65, TUDN; Univision’s pregame coverage starts at 7 p.m., ESPN2′s starts at 7:30)

Though Andre Blake has been in red-hot form for the Union lately, Jamaica is off to a terrible start in World Cup qualifying. The Reggae Boyz got just one point from last month’s three-game set, sit in last place in the standings, and now begin another three-game set by facing a U.S. team that’s full of confidence.

The U.S. will be without injured attacking stars Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, which will put a lot of pressure on Brenden Aaronson. The most pressure will be on Weston McKennie, who returns to the national team after being suspended for breaking COVID-19 protocols last month.

There will also be a lot of attention on Yunus Musah, an 18-year-old midfielder with prodigious talent but little international experience. Though he has six caps, he isn’t technically cap-tied to the U.S. yet because he hasn’t played in an official competition.

Musah is also part of a key U.S. tactical storyline to watch. We know McKennie likes to roam free in central midfield. We also know Tyler Adams can cover a lot of ground defensively to help make up for that. But if McKennie roams too much, will Musah have to help behind him? If so, how much will that take away from Musah’s attacking contributions?

Thursday, 8 p.m. (Universo, Paramount+) Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Both of these teams underwhelmed in last month’s qualifiers, each registering a tie and two losses. There’s still time to get back on track, but by the time this month’s qualifiers end, Concacaf’s 14-game tournament will have played just shy of half its rounds.Costa Rica has the bigger pedigree, but stars Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz are getting old and there aren’t yet top youngsters to replace them. Honduras has the better attack on paper in forwards Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis, but Quioto has been sidelined by a muscle injury.

Thursday, 9:40 p.m. (Univision 65, TUDN, Paramount+Mexico vs. Canada

It surprised no one that Mexico stood atop the standings after September’s qualifiers, and it surprised few people that Canada stood in third.This will be a massive test for Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and the Canucks. Raúl Jiménez has returned to El Tri’s attack to join Jesús Corona, and fans have returned to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca after being barred last month for a homophobic chant.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/cOboOBVsbLk?feature=oembed Thursday, 10 p.m. (Universo, Paramount+El Salvador vs. Panama

For as promisingly energetic as El Salvador looked in its home games last month, both games ended in scoreless ties. Panama was a pleasant surprise, winning at Jamaica and tying Mexico and Costa Rica at home. The Canaleros start this month’s contests in fourth place.

Deschamps, World Cup holders France must use Nations League to rediscover their best form.

USA vs. Jamaica, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for

It’s back to work to get 3 points.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Oct 6, 2021, 7:00am PDT

The United States Men’s National Team is back in action for World Cup qualifying as they take on Jamaica tomorrow at Q2 Stadium in Austin. The United States are hoping to start this window out in a big way against a Jamaica team that entered the Octagonal with high expectations but only took 1 point from their first 3 matches. The USMNT, in 2nd place in the standings, hope to make it a big October to solidly maintain their place in the top 3.The USMNT are short a couple of their star players, including Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and John Brooks. Still, they need to take care of business against a team that will have in almost all of their main players.

Latest Form

USA

W (4-1) – Honduras – World Cup Qualifying

D (1-1) – Canada – World Cup Qualifying

D (0-0) – El Salvador – World Cup Qualifying

W (1-0) – Mexico – Gold Cup Final

W (1-0) – Qatar – Gold Cup Semifinals

Jamaica

D (1-1) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying

L (0-3) – Panama – World Cup Qualifying

L (1-2) – Mexico – World Cup Qualifying

L (0-1) – United States – Gold Cup Quarterfinals

L (2-0) – Costa Rica – Gold Cup Group C

What To Watch For

Fight the physicality. The last time the USMNT played Jamaica was the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. In that match, the Reggae Boyz really brought the pressure and intensity as they had the Americans flat-footed for most of the match. These matches between the two teams are always physical, and Gregg Berhalter will have to make sure his guys are prepared to withstand that physicality. In March, they did just that in a 4-1 friendly victory over Jamaica. They did a poorer job of it during the Gold Cup, so they’ll need to learn from that and be stronger on the ball.

Utilize the flanks. The successes that the USMNT have had in both matches this year against Jamaica have come from the flanks. Those advantages continue to be there, and if they can use that to feed balls into the box and create offense, Jamaica will have a tough time with it. It will also tire out the Jamaican defense, which will lead to more holes down the stretch.

Midfield needs to have a good day. The midfield has to not only be the engine, it has to be the brick wall. They also have to be the heartbeat of the team, making sure the link between defense and offense remains constant. That was missing last window for vast stretches, so it should be a key focus during this match.

Lineup Prediction

There are a few ways that Gregg Berhalter can go for his lineup, especially with some key players not in camp due to injury. Still, there are some options that he can call upon, but he likely goes with this lineup:

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/O2tKeEqct9P8oNRUroYd9ZyZBTo=/0x0:684x890/1200x0/filters:focal(0x0:684x890):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/22902778/Screen_Shot_2021_10_05_at_12.45.39_PM.png

Predicted Lineup vs. Jamaica

The biggest story will be who starts in goal for the USMNT. Zack Steffen and Matt Turner both have staked claims to the job, but Steffen has not sat in a competitive match when healthy under Gregg Berhalter. Because he also will not be able to play in Panama, he gets the start here over the hot Turner.The back line is a little more composed, with Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest occupying the fullback positions. At the centerback spots, the Walker Zimmerman-Miles Robinson combo worked during the group stage of the Gold Cup, and it’s likely we see that duo start.In the middle, Weston McKennie is back and will once again start in that box-to-box role, with Tyler Adams continuing his role at the 6 (where he belongs). Sebastian Lletget is the 3rd midfielder, as he’s done a great job of combating the physicality a USA-Jamaica match brings.Up front, Ricardo Pepi gets the start at the 9, with Gyasi Zardes coming in to relieve him at some point. Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah take the wings, but don’t be surprised to see Paul Arriola on the field instead of one of Aaronson and Weah (likely Weah) if Berhalter wants another worker on the wings.

Prediction

This is a match that will have a great atmosphere, a lot of emotion, and will be a battle on the field. The USMNT don’t struggle, but Jamaica makes it a match until a USMNT goal in the middle of the 2nd half opens things up. They add another one before the final whistle blows to make it a 2-0 USA victory.

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10/1/21  HS Sectionals start for area schools, Indy 11 home Sat 7 pm, USMNT team announced no Pulisic/Reyna, Champs League dramatics, NWSL issues

High School Sectionals Starting Soon

The 3rd ranked CHS Varsity girls host Sectionals starting next week at Murray Stadium.  Coming off a tough 0-2 loss at home to Noblesville last week – the CHS Girls will look to rebound during sectionals and hope for a rematch down the road.  The Carmel Boys defeated Guerin 3-0 last week as they head to sectionals at Westfield High ranked 10th in the state.    State Rankings going into sectionals.  

The #3 Ranked CHS Girls will be hosting their sectional at Murray Stadium starting Wednesday night vs Guerin Catholic at 6 pm.  Tickets avail for $6 per session or $10 for the entire tourney.

GIRLS SECTIONALS

8. Hamilton Southeastern (6): Anderson, #20 Fishers, #4 Hamilton Southeastern, Muncie Central, #1 Noblesville, Pendleton Heights
9. Ben Davis (7): Avon, Ben Davis, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Indianapolis Shortridge, Mooresville, Plainfield
10. Carmel (7): #10 Carmel, #13 Guerin Catholic, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, #6 North Central (Indianapolis), Pike, Westfield, #10 Zionsville

The CHS Boys will be at the Westfield sectional starting Oct 6th with Pike as the first matchup on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm tickets avail for $6 per session or $10 for the entire tourney.  Three of the teams are in the top 12 of the state.  Guerin is hosting and will start with a match-up with Cardinal Ritter Wed night at 7:30 pm. 

Boys Sectionals –

8. Noblesville (6): Anderson, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Muncie Central, Noblesville, Pendleton Heights

10. Westfield (6): Carmel, Indianapolis Shortridge, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike, Westfield, Zionsville
11. Lawrence North (7): Franklin Central, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, Warren Central

26. Guerin Catholic (7): Brebeuf, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Lebanon, Western Boone

Indy 11 Returns home Sat vs Atlanta United 2 –7 pm & MyIndy TV 23, ESPN+

The 11 have a chance to move up the rankings with a home match vs Atlanta United 2 this Sat at 7 pm. It will be Spanish Heritage Night at the Mike.   

US Men Roster for Oct Qualifiers Announced No Pulisic, Reyna

The US men return to action next Thursday with the 2nd leg of World Cup Qualifiers on Thurs night vs Jamaica at 7:45 pm on ESPN2.   Of course Pulisic and Reyna are both missing as they are both still injured from the last round of qualifiers.  Returning to the fold is midfielder Weston McKinney, along with phenom forward Ricardo Pepi along with the return of Gyasi Zardes.  I will be headed to Columbus for the Costa Rica game on Oct 13th!  

See the full roster below.. 

USMNT roster for October World Cup qualifiers

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Shaq Moore (Tenerife), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Tim Weah (Lille), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Here’s the schedule (all times ET):

  • Thursday, Oct. 7 — vs. Jamaica (7:45 p.m., ESPN2, Univision, TUDN)
  • Sunday, Oct. 10 — at Panama (6 p.m., Paramount+, Universo)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13 — vs. Costa Rica (7 p.m., ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN)  Columbus

Who Shane likes to start vs Jamaica

Pepi

Aaronson/Weah

McKennie/Musah

Adams

Robinson/John Brooks/Miles Robinson/Dest

Steffan

Champions League Punishes American’s

To say our American’s did poorly in this second stage of Champions League would be an understatement – every team with American’s lost except Juventus (McKinney played last 20 min) in 2-1 win over Chelsea (Pulisic is injured) and RB Salzburg with Aaronson beating Tim Weah and Lille 2-1.   Dest and Barcelona lost 3-0 (Dest had a hand ball) @ Benefica, Adams and RB Leipzig lost to Club Brugge at home 2-1, Dortmund did win 1-0 but Reyna has not returned from his knee injury suffered in his last US game.  Brooks and Wolfsburg tied

Of course the huge news of the 2nd legs was Man United’s come from behind last second goal from Ronaldo to beat Villarreal 2-1, and PSG getting Messi’s 1st goal to beat Man City 2-1 at home.  Of course Barcelona’s 2nd 3-0 loss in Champions League will certainly be the end for Barca Coach Ronald Koeman – look for Belgium’s Roberto Martinez to be at the top of the list of coach options.  And of course the biggest upset in Champions League history – Real Madrid losing 2-1 to Sheriff Triaspol at home.   For Chelsea – they are certainly struggling now without Pulisic – the offense that started so strong with Lukaku has gone stale

Games this Weekend

Liverpool vs Man City leads the game weekend Sunday at 11:30 am on NBCSN followed by El Traffico LA Galaxy hosting LAFC at 8 pm on ESPN.  Sat gives us Man United vs Everton at 7 am on NBCSN, then Atletico Madrid host the reeling Barcelona on ESPN+ at 3 pm.

BIG GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND

Atlético Madrid vs. Barcelona

Saturday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

The wheels officially fell off Barcelona on Wednesday in an abysmal 3-0 Champions League loss at Benfica. Manager Ronald Koeman surely has to go now. Guillem Balagué, the Spanish journalist who reports for CBS Sports, the BBC, and other outlets reported Thursday that Barcelona’s brass met when the team returned from Lisbon to figure out an action plan.

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Belgium manager Roberto Martínez is the leading candidate to replace Koeman, if he’s willing to leave the Red Devils before next year’s World Cup — where the team will be a title favorite. The rumor around Europe is Martinez would say yes if the call comes.

In the meantime, Barcelona has to go to the defending La Liga champions, whose tenacious defense and smart counter-attacks have long given the Blaugrana fits. Oh, and Atlético’s squad is now led by former Barcelona stars Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann. You can be sure they’ll be up for this.

CF Montréal vs. Atlanta United (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN+) & Orlando City vs. D.C. United (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+)

With the Union not playing until Sunday this weekend, take the opportunity Saturday night to watch these games between Eastern Conference playoff rivals. D.C. enters the weekend in third place, the Union in fifth, Atlanta in sixth, Orlando in seventh and Montréal in eighth.

Lille vs. Marseille

Sunday, 11 a.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)

Fresh off earning a return to the U.S. squad, Lille’s Tim Weah squares off with one of the players who didn’t make the cut, Marseille’s Konrad de la Fuente.

» RE

Liverpool vs. Manchester City

Sunday, 11:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Telemundo)

This is always a big game in the Premier League, and this time the teams come in as the top two in the standings. Liverpool has a one-point lead over City, which lost at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Fortunately for City, Liverpool doesn’t have Lionel Messi. But the Reds do have a league-best 15 goals scored this season, with five coming from Mo Salah.

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Los Angeles FC

Sunday, 8 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

It seems hard to believe that both star-studded L.A. teams could miss the playoffs. But the Galaxy are sixth in the West and LAFC is ninth. If Minnesota, Vancouver and perhaps San Jose can box them out, it might just happen.

USA


Weston McKennie returns to USMNT for World Cup qualifying; Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna out injured

Injured Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna left off U.S. men’s World Cup qualifying roster

McKennie back from USMNT suspension, but Pulisic out for World Cup qualifiers

Champions League


UEFA Champions League wrap: Barcelona humiliated (again), Bayern rolls

Guardiola ‘in love’ with Verratti, praises PSG talent after Man City loss

Juventus vs Chelsea, Manchester United vs Villarreal; 3 things, final scores

Porto vs Liverpool: Reds shine, Salah stars

Beleaguered Barcelona thumped by Benfica in Champions League

Champions League: Sheriff’s monumental upset at Real Madrid

‘Anything is possible’ for Man Utd as Ronaldo papers over the cracks

Champions League: A tiny club from an unrecognized state stuns Real Madrid

WORLD
Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool must be near perfect to ‘have a chance’ v Man City

Liverpool vs Manchester City: Lineups, prediction, team news, odds, 

Koeman on the brink as Barcelona face Griezmann and Atletico
          
Fulham go third in Championship as Mitrovic treble sinks Swansea

Juventus look to build on Chelsea win in Turin derby

Brazilian soccer great Pelé leaves hospital after weeks


Fully vaccinated players to get UK travel exemption for international 

 

MLS


Columbus Crew wins Campeones Cup, shuts out Liga MX’s Cruz Azul

MLS notebook: Busy weekend of action before World Cup qualifiers. Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati fire coaches.

NWSL
NWSL calls off weekend games after allegations against coach

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird: ‘I take full responsibility’

US women’s soccer league cancels matches after abuse allegations

Women’s soccer coaches fired amid allegations of misconduct

9/27/21  Champions League Tues/Wed on CBSSN, Sectional start next week for area high schools, Indy 11 home Sat 7 pm

Champions League is Back Tues/Wed

Champions League is back with Match-day 2 this week on Paramount plus and the Goalazo Show on CBS Sports Network.  The Pregame will start at 2 pm for the 3 pm kickoffs Tues/Wed with the Goalazo show – showing goals from all the games starting at 3 pm on CBSSN.  Each of the games can be watched on Paramount plus ($5 a month) as well.  Again I have been pleased with both the pregame and post game coverage on CBSSN and Paramount plus – sucks we have to pay now – but the coverage is MUCH BETTER than Peacock which doesn’t allow you to rewind at all.  Featured games on Tuesday are of course PSG and Messi vs Man City and his former coach Pep Guardiola at 3 pm.  American’s planning include TTyler Adams should be on for RB Leipzig hosting Club Brugge, and Reyna should be in for Dortmund vs Sporting both at 3 pm.  AC Milan faces Atletico Madrid as well.  Wednesday gives us American’s McKinney for Juventus and Pulisic for Chelsea  (though Pulisic probably won’t play) at 3 pm, while Brendan Aaronson for RB Salzeburg hosts Lille and Tim Weah also at 3 pm.  Young Boys American Jordan Pfuk scored last time out and will look to score again as they Atalanta in Italy Wed at 12:45 pm, while the other big game Wed in Man United hosting Villareal at 3 pm Wed. 

Indy 11 Returns home Sat vs Atlanta United 2 –7 pm & MyIndy TV 23, ESPN+

The 11 have a chance to move up the rankings though with a huge home match vs Atlanta United this Sat at 7 pm. It will be Spanish Heritage Night at the Mike.    

High School Sectionals Starting Soon

The 3rd ranked CHS Varsity girls host Sectionals starting next week at Murray Stadium.  Coming off a tough 0-2 loss at home to Noblesville last week – the CHS Girls will look to rebound during sectionals and hope for a rematch down the road.  The Carmel Boys defeated Guerin 3-0 last week as they head to sectionals at Westfield High ranked 10th in the state.   State Rankings going into sectionals.   

Champions League TV schedule

All times Eastern.

Tuesday, September 28

12:45 pm EDT

Ajax Amsterdam vs. Beşiktaş

Paramount+, Galavisión, fubo TV

12:45 pm EDT

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester City

Paramount+, Univision, TUDN, fubo TV

03:00 pm EDT

RB Leipzig (Adams) vs. Club Brugge

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

03:00 pm EDT

AC Milan vs. Atletico Madrid

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

03:00 pm EDT

Borussia Dortmund (Reyna) vs. Sporting CP

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

03:00 pm EDT

FC Porto vs. Liverpool

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV  03:00 pm EDT

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Inter Milan

Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV  03:00 pm EDT

Real Madrid vs. Sheriff Tiraspol Paramount+, PrendeTV  3pm 

Wednesday, September 29

12:45 pm EDT

Atalanta vs. BSC Young Boys  (American Pfuk)

Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV  12:45 pm EDT

Juventus vs. Chelsea

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV  3 pm

RB Salzburg (Aaronson) vs. Lille (Tim Weah)

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV 03:00 pm EDT

Manchester United vs. Villarreal

Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV 03:00 pm EDT

Bayern Munich vs. Dynamo Kiev

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV  03:00 pm EDT

Benfica vs. Barcelona

Paramount+, PrendeTV  03:00 pm EDT

VfL Wolfsburg vs. Sevilla FC

Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV 03:00 pm EDT

Zenit St Petersburg vs. Malmö

Paramount+, Galavisión, fubo TV    03:00 pm EDT

Columbus Crew v Cruz Azul, 8p on ESPN2, TUDN, Univision, fuboTV, Sling TV: Gyasi Zardes and MLS champion Columbus face Liga MX champions Cruz Azul in the Campeones Cup.

MLS —

  • Atlanta United v Inter Miami, 7p on ESPN+ (free trial): Miles Robinson, George Bello, and Brad Guzan match up with Robbie Robinson.
  • CF Montréal v New England Revolution, 7p on ESPN+: Matt Turner will try to prevent more Djordje Mihailovic assists in this one.
  • FC Dallas v Sporting KC, 8p on ESPN+, fcdallas.com: The Huntsmen feature some of MLS’ best young talent, including Ricardo Pepi, Jesús Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal, and Justin Che.
  • San Jose Earthquakes v Seattle Sounders, 10:30p on ESPN+, Prime Video: Cristian Roldan and Josh Atencio, who has been impressing for the Sounders, face a San Jose squad with Cade Cowell and Jackson Yueill. Jordan Morris is edging closer to making his Sounders return.

Thursday

  • Lyon v Brøndby IF, 12:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Christian Cappis and Brøndby have a solid foe in Europa League.
  • Marseille v Galatasaray, 3p on TUDN, UniMás, Paramount+, fuboTV, Univision NOW: Konrad de la Fuente and Marseille host DeAndre Yedlin and Galatasaray in Europe League.
  • Celtic v Bayer Leverkusen, 3p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Cameron Carter-Vickers will face a fast-paced Bundesliga attack in this Europa matchup.

Also in action:

  • Sturm Graz v PSV, 12:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: PSV continues their Europa campaign without Richie Ledezma.
  • Antwerp v Eintracht Frankfurt, 12:45p, Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Timmy Chandler and Frankfurt face Antwerp in Europa League. Antwerp is without Sam Vines due to a serious injury.
  • Zorya v Roma, 12:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Bryan Reynolds attempts to work his way into José Mourinho’s plans with this Conference League match.
  • Ferencváros v Real Betis, 3p on Galavision, Paramount+, fuboTV, Sling TV, TUDN.com, Univision NOW: Henry Wingo faces a La Liga opponent in Europa.
  • Genk v Dinamo Zagreb, 3p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Mark McKenzie and Genk are at home to Zagreb in Europa.

Champions League

Guardiola and Messi meet again as PSG take on Man City
Messi set to return as PSG and Man City go head to head

Man City boss Guardiola unsure how to stop fearsome PSG attack

PSG still ‘a work in progress’ for Pochettino after Messi arrival

Rebic emerging from Zlatan’s shadow as Atletico await

Juve beat Sampdoria but have Dybala worries ahead of Chelsea visit

Liverpool need to show Champions League reaction after Brentford mishaps: Klopp
Ajax star Haller takes to Champions League in style
Simeone calls for Atletico to ‘evolve and change’

Real Madrid liberated by Ancelotti return but tougher tests await

USA


USMNT Big Board: Will Pepi, Hoppe join Pulisic in Qatar?
  J
Jeff Carlisle  ESPNFC
USMNT’s Weah sets up two goals for Canada’s David in Lille win 

USMNT’s Dest shines in Barcelona blowout; Fati scores on return 

Christian Pulisic remains out with injury

Miazga, Weah, Scally, Pefok, & Harkes lead mixed weekend for Yanks abroad

USMNT’s De La Fuente chasing his dream in Marseille

Looking ahead to October qualifiers: what could the USMNT roster look like?

Building an October World Cup Qualifying Roster – S&S

What the first round of World Cup Qualifying says about the USMNT

CONCACAF sets critical 2022 Summer tournament to qualify for both U-20 WC and Olympics

USWNT vs. Paraguay: A glimpse at the future  S&S

Why Do We Even Play these Games US Ladies ??   The 18 – Good Question – I didn’t watch !!

September 2021 International Friendly: USA 8-0 Paraguay – Pasta, chili, and goals S&S By Parker Cleveland

Heath Thrilled to Join Childhood Dream Team – Arsenal

WORLD


Was Chelsea’s approach wrong vs. Man City? PLUS: Arsenal thump Spurs, Fati’s return for Barcelona
 
4hGabriele Marcotti
10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 6

Perfect Napoli reclaim top spot, Lazio squeeze past Mourinho’s Roma in derby
Fernandes vows to keep taking penalties after Villa misery

Spurs ‘lost complete control’ in loss as Tottenham ‘got smashed’ by Arsenal

Mexico star Raul Jimenez bags first Wolves goal since skull fracture

Freiburg down Augsburg to stay unbeaten in Bundesliga

MLS & Indy 11

MLS Power Rankings: Seattle cements its superiority in the West

Stam leaves Cincinnati after one win in 16

Sounders top Sporting KC, regain top spot in West

Sounders fend off conference rivals Sporting KC for the win

MLS Standings –

 
RECAP | ELEVEN DROPS ROUND 1 AT OKC

·      INDY ELEVEN ADDS MIDFIELDER KEVIN PARTIDA AT LEAGUE’S ROSTER FREEZE DEADLINE

·      INDY ELEVEN ANNOUNCED AS NEWEST MEMBER OF USL W LEAGUE

Gallery: Hoppenot, Lancaster tallies power LouCity to win at Indy Eleven

Christian Pulisic remains out with injury

Joe Prince-WrightSun, September 26, 2021, 5:50 AM·3 min read

|Christian Pulisic is stepping up his return from injury, but he won’t be ready for Saturday’s Premier League title clash between Chelsea and Manchester City, as Thomas Tuchel has confirmed the USMNT star’s ankle injury is not yet fully recovered.“Christian Pulisic is still out,” Tuchel said during his pre-match press conference on Friday.There is some positive news about his recovery, though, as the Chelsea winger missed the win at Tottenham but after that victory, Thomas Tuchel provided an update to ProSoccerTalk.Pulisic, 23, suffered an ankle injury in the USMNT’s 4-1 win at Honduras on Sept. 9 and has been out since.But Chelsea hope to have him back very soon.

What is the latest Christian Pulisic injury update?

Asked by ProSoccerTalk about a possible timeline for Pulisic’s return, Tuchel said that the League Cup game against Aston Villa on Wednesday would come too soon for Pulisic.Tuchel added that Pulisic is working hard at Chelsea’s training ground, and his fitness status depends on how that session went.“I think for Christian the game against Aston Villa [in the Carabao Cup in midweek] is maybe a bit too close,” Tuchel said. “I hope that I’m wrong but this is my impression. He’s not in training so far but let’s see tomorrow. Maybe if he had a good progression today, maybe it’s possible. It would be super nice for us to have him but for me it’s a bit doubtful.”However, Pulisic did not feature against Villa or against Manchester City on Saturday, as he battles to be fit for the upcoming international break.Chelsea travel to Juventus on Wednesday, Sept. 29 in a massive UEFA Champions League clash, as Pulisic will hope to take on his good friend and USMNT teammate Weston McKennie.Check out the full video above of Tuchel speaking to us post-game.

What has been going on with Pulisic this season?

The Pennsylvanian winger had only just returned from a spell out due to testing positive for COVID-19 as he then had to work his way back to full fitness.Pulisic started the 2021-22 domestic season well, as he scored a penalty kick in Chelsea’s UEFA Super Cup final win and scored in the opening day win against Crystal Palace.However, as has been the case for much of his young career, injuries have hampered his fast start to the new season and he hasn’t played for the Blues in over a month.

Good news for USMNT

Whenever Pulisic returns for Chelsea, it seems like he will be fit to play in their World Cup qualifiers in October.That is, obviously, great news for Gregg Berhalter. The USMNT face Jamaica, Panama and Costa Rica in October and they look like being pivotal clashes as the latter two nations have started well in qualifying.Pulisic wore the captains armband in two of the USMNT’s three World Cup qualifiers last month (he only played in two after missing the game at El Salvador) and is clearly the talisman for the Stars and Stripes.Even a 75 percent fit Pulisic has to start for the USMNT.

USWNT vs. Paraguay: A glimpse at the future

7

For the second match vs. Paraguay, we saw a new lineup, and with it, some glorious, free flowing soccer. Is this what the future looks like for the USWNT?

By Adnan Ilyas@Adnan7631  Sep 23, 2021, 12:29pm PDT

The USWNT just played two games against Paraguay in Ohio and, quite frankly, I really don’t have much to say about the two matches. The team won 9-0 in Cleveland before winning 8-0 in Cincinnati. Combined with the upcoming two matches against South Korea, such goalfests surely are an appropriate way to celebrate (or perhaps mourn) a bronze medal performance at the Olympics and the end of Carli Lloyd’s distinguished international career. But their ability to tell us much about the national team itself is unfortunately limited. With all due respect to their program, Paraguay is not a stern enough test to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the best team in the world.However, there was one thing that stood out, particularly in the Cincinnati game. Due to a mixture of injuries, rotations, and other absences, we saw a starting lineup without most of the most veteran players. Take a look of this partial list of players who either missed out entirely or only came on as a substitute:

Carli Lloyd (39)
Becky Sauerbrunn (36)
Megan Rapinoe (36)
Christen Press (32)
Tobin Heath (33)
Kelley O’Hara (33)

These are some seriously significant players. These six names have comfortably over 1,000 caps between themselves. These players have been among the defining parts of the USWNT for a decade. Yet, here was a lineup without them. This signals a point of transition. It’s not going to happen immediately, but we are going to see these players start to be phased out. It’s already starting to happen what with Lloyd’s impending retirement. And frankly, this change is needed. During the Olympics, the WNT was frequently criticized for a lack of dynamism, particularly in attack. And for all their strengths, players don’t develop that kind of energy in their mid 30s.Of course, this begs the question of who takes their place. Tuesday night, we saw Catarina Macario and Sophia Smith, both 21 years old, start and score. Joining them were Mal Pugh and Rose Lavelle, who are 23 and 26, respectively. Finally, at striker was Alex Morgan, 32. That front six was fluid and confident, able to move the ball rapidly and to seize whatever opportunity they could get, and quick to recover possession when they lost it. Where the first match was dominated by Lloyd’s offensive ability, the second saw the attacking load distributed across the team (with Lavelle particularly doing the distributing). This could very well be what the future of the team looks like.At this point, I would like to take a step back. The men’s team similarly underwent a large and rapid transition, with players in their 30s being replaced by ones in their teens and early 20s. That’s not going to happen with the women’s team; that’s just not their culture. The USWNT has always been a heavily veteran group, and that’s not changing. Sauerbrunn and Rapinoe might be moving towards the twilight of their careers, but they aren’t just going to disappear from the national team. Same for the other players in their 30s. These players will be here for years to come. And that’s to say nothing about some of the other seriously experienced players. While they didn’t feature on Tuesday, the likes of Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, and Julie Ertz are not going anywhere, with all of them still currently in their late 20s. The USWNT is not going to suddenly and dramatically change. This is a program that slowly integrates players in and replaces key roles with players who are already established in the program.Still, that lineup in Cincinnati signals that something is changing. And it may well have even been a glimpse into the team’s future.

MLS Power Rankings: New England holds steady on top, Seattle cements its superiority in the West

11:51 AM ET Kyle Bonagura     Jeff Carlisle

1. New England Revolution

Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Revs got back to winning ways, beating Chicago 3-2 in midweek and then Orlando 2-1 as Adam Buksa scored one goal and forced an own goal on a second. Goalkeeper Matt Turner remains a penalty kick master, saving this time from Nani, but conceded a goal for the third game running in which he got a hand to the shot. A crack in the granite perhaps? — Carlisle

2. Seattle Sounders

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Considering where it came on the schedule, the Sounders’ 2-1 win at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday was their biggest win of the season. Cristian Roldan and Will Bruin‘s goals give Seattle a two-point lead over SKC in the Western Conference with a game in hand. The teams play against on Oct. 23. — Bonagura

3. Nashville SC

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 vs. Orlando, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Nashville wasn’t exactly scintillating in attack in a 0-0 draw with Chicago, but on a day when both Hany Mukhtar and C.J. Sapong were rested, perhaps that was to be expected. With the point, as well as the 5-1 hammering of Miami in midweek, Nashville solidified its hold on second place in the Eastern Conference. — Carlisle

4. Colorado Rapids

Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 vs. Austin, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A goalless draw with Toronto, the worst defensive team in MLS, feels more like a loss for Colorado, which would have ended the week in second place in the West with a win. Still, the Rapids haven’t lost in 11 matches. — Bonagura

5. Sporting Kansas City

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 at Dallas. 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

With Seattle coming to Children’s Mercy Park — and having just played in the Leagues Cup final on Wednesday — Sunday was a huge opportunity for Sporting to take control in the Western Conference. Instead, things swung the other way in a 2-1 defeat. — Bonagura

6. Philadelphia Union

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Union delivered an impressive performance in beating previously high-flying Atlanta 1-0, as Philadelphia’s defense stifled the Five Stripes’ attack. After going nearly two months without a goal, Kacper Przybylko now has three in his past two games, including Saturday’s game-winner. — Carlisle

7. Atlanta United FC

Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 vs. Miami, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Atlanta’s fine run of form came to a temporary halt, despite the heroics of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, in a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia. The absence of striker Josef Martinez due to “knee soreness” will be something to keep an eye on going forward. — Carlisle

8. Portland Timbers

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 at LAFC, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Portland remains one of the hottest teams in the league and used an emphatic 6-1 win against Real Salt Lake to move into fourth place in the Western Conference standings. The Timbers have won five games during a six-game unbeaten run ahead of stretch against three struggling teams: LAFC, Miami and the LA Galaxy— Bonagura

9. Minnesota United

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Robin Lod and Ethan Finlay both scored in a comfortable 2-0 win against Houston. Lod’s goal came just 51 seconds into the game — the Loons’ fastest strike since joining MLS in 2017 — and now the team has a pair of away games this week against D.C. and Dallas. — Bonagura

10.New York City FC

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: Sept. 29 at Chicago, 8:00 pm ET, ESPN+

It was a head-in-the-hands week for NYCFC. Just minutes from a road win against the Red Bulls, the Cityzens conceded a penalty deep into stoppage time and were forced to settle for a draw. Then they fell at home 1-0 against their rivals, despite creating numerous chances. Now NYCFC find themselves brought back into the mire of the Eastern Conference postseason race. — Carlisle

9/21/21  CHS Girls Pack the House Night tonight, Seattle vs Club Leon CONCACAF Championship Wed 10 pm ESPN2, US Ladies at Cincy Thurs Eve FS1, EPL League Cup Games this week

The 2nd ranked CHS Varsity girls host Pack the House night Monday night vs #1 ranked Noblesville at 7 pm as Carmel FC and Dad’s club kids with their uniforms get Free Admission! Lots of former Carmel FC players and both GKs will be on hand.  Arrive early and see the JV team with both former Carmel FC keepers in the net at 5 pm. 

Seattle Plays Club Leon in Vegas Wed 10 pm on ESPN2

MLS looks to finally beat La Liga’s best as the defending MLS champs will represent MLS against Mexico’s Club Leon.  The game kicks at 10 pm Wed night on ESPN2!  Go Seattle !!

US Ladies face Paraguay Tues night in Cincy on Fox Sports 1 at 7:30 pm

Not 100% sure why we face these completely overmatched countries like Paraguay – but the US ladies will do it again this Tues night as they face Paraguay 5 days after slaughtering them 9-0 last week.  Carli Lloyd scored a record 5 goals in the game as she moved into 3rd place in the all Time US ladies history in goals scored. 

USWNT vs. Paraguay (Cincy) Tix Are On Sale Now

Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Location: TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Time: 7:30 PM ET

Indy 11 Returns home Sat vs Tulsa 7 pm & MyIndy TV

The Indy 11 continue the slide as a home loss to Louisville dropped the boys in blue to 6th in the Central Division at 8-11-5.  The 11 have a chance to move up the rankings though with a huge match vs FC Tulsa currently in 3rd overall this Sat at 7 pm. 

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Tues, Sept 21

10 am                   Germany vs Serbia Women’s WCQ Paramount+

1:30 pm               Getafe vs Athletico Madrid  

2!5 pm                 England vs Luxemburg  Women’s WCQ Paramount+

2:45 pm               Fulham (Ream, Robinson) vs Leeds United ESPN+ League Cup

2:45 pm               Norwich City (Stewart) vs Liverpool ESPN+ League Cup

2:45 pm               Milan vs Venezia Paramount+

3 pm                     Metz vs PSG beIN Sports

7:30 pm               US Ladies vs Paraguay  FS1  

8 pm                     Indiana U vs Northwestern BTN

Wed, Sept 22

12 noon               Spetzia vs Juventus  paramount +

2:45 pm               Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Aston Villa ESPN+ League Cup

2:45 pm               Man United vs West Ham United ESPN+ League Cup

2:45 pm               Milan vs Venezia Paramount+

3 pm                     Metz vs PSG beIN Sports

4 pm                     Real Madrid vs Mallarca  ESPN+

7:30 pm               Inter Miami vs Nashville MLS ESPN+

10 pm                  Seattle Sounders vs Club Leon MLS vs Mex League Cup Final ESPN2

Sat, Sept 25

7:30 am               Chelsea vs Man City  NBCSN

9 am                     Spezia vs Milan Paramount+

10 am                   Leceister City vs Burnley NBCSN

12:30 pm             brentford vs Liverpool NBCSN

12:3o pm             Mgladbach vs Dortmund ESPN+

3 pm                     PSG vs Montpellier   beIN Sports

3:30 pm               Philly vs Atlanta United   Univsion

3 pm                     Real Madrid vs Villarreal

7:30 pm               Columbus Crew vs Montreal  ESPN+  

10 pm                   Portland vs Real Salt Lake ESPN+

US Women and Men

Rose Lavelle talks next generation of USWNT, TQL Stadium and returning to Cincinnati for Paraguay friendly

USWNT vs. Paraguay result: Carli Lloyd scores five goals as USA romps to 9-0 win

Lloyd nets 5 in win to start USWNT farewell tour

September 2021 USWNT Friendly: USA 9-0 Paraguay – Carli Lloyd puts on a show

Carli Lloyd goes off for record-tying 5 goals in USWNT blowout of Paraguay

Mallory Pugh makes statement in USWNT Return
Sargent: Norwich ‘can’t give up at all’ as Farke admits 3 points needed vs Watford

USMNT falls 3 spots to 13th in FIFA World Rankings

MLS

3 TakeAways Seattle dramatic League Cup Semi-final win over Santos Laguna

Three takeaways from Philadelphia Union’s CCL semifinal loss to Club América

EPL


Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 5

Chelsea’s Tuchel explains halftime changes, winning despite sloppiness

Tottenham vs Chelsea final score: Defenders attack as Blues wake up

Ronaldo scores, West Ham misses penalty as Man United wins

WORLD


Pochettino plays down decision to take off Messi in PSG win

Icardi gives PSG win over Lyon on Messi home debut

AC Milan stalemate piles on misery for Juventus

Benzema strikes again as Real Madrid stun Valencia with late double

Wolfsburg held at home as Bayern Munich stay top of Bundesliga

Haaland double sees Dortmund hold off Union to climb to second

Indy 11

·      RECAP: INDY ELEVEN 0 : 2 LOUISVILLE CITY FC

·      BY THE NUMBERS: INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN

·      COMING TO THE CIRCLE CITY

https://www.uslchampionship.com/league-standings

Rose Lavelle talks next generation of USWNT, TQL Stadium and returning to Cincinnati for Paraguay friendly

Pat BrennanCincinnati Enquirer

Rose Lavelle isn’t the first U.S. women’s national team star produced by the Greater Cincinnati region, nor are her’s the first USWNT sides to visit and play in Cincinnati venues.But given how bright Lavelle’s star has shone in her career, it’s hard not to link the Mount Notre Dame and Cincinnati United Premier product’s successes to the meteoric rise of soccer in Greater Cincinnati.Lavelle’s career arch has so far run parallel to Cincinnati’s soccer boom and often times made the boom larger. Her feature role in the USWNT, and especially its 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup triumph in France, has given the area a kind of soccer bona fides that few if any local products can claim to have contributed.Not surprisingly, Lavelle’s return to the region following her last national team accomplishment – a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games – is garnering great attention. Speaking Saturday ahead of the USWNT’s Tuesday match at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium in the second of back-to-back games against Paraguay, Lavelle said she’s never considered herself as playing a starring role in the growth of local soccer.

More:USWNT set for TQL Stadium match after dominating Paraguay

“I’ve always said I think that Cincinnati is such an underrated soccer city and I’m so glad that now, having a team here, people are seeing it and I feel like the city is getting to showcase that,” Lavelle said. “I think it’s such a great city with a lot of young talent and hopefully girls, boys from Cincinnati can see themselves in me and see that it’s possible for a Midwest person to get to this level.”Yeah, I think it’s cool. When I was growing up, I had Heather Mitts to look up to. She went to (Saint) Ursula and I was obsessed with her and I think it just made it so much more real to me that somebody from where I was from was in a place that I wanted to get to, so, yeah, I hope I can serve as that same kind of inspiration to people in this area.” Lavelle’s made multiple visits to Cincinnati since her professional career took off when she was drafted No. 1 overall in the NWSL College Draft by the now-defunct Boston Breakers. Those stops have included a September 2017 USWNT friendly against New Zealand at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, as well as a number of ceremonies honoring her contribution to the World Cup victory in summer 2019. 

U.S. Soccer in Cincinnati during the FC Cincinnati era

• Sept. 21 (7:30 p.m.) – Friendly: USWNT vs. Paraguay (TQL Stadium, hybrid grass surface)*

Now, Lavelle will help push the local game further again with Tuesday’s Paraguay match, which is the first-ever U.S. Soccer event staged at the $250 million TQL Stadium.

“I don’t know if I think of myself as having a starring role, but I am very, very excited to be able to come and play in Cincinnati,” Lavelle said. “I’m so happy any time I’m able to come home but to get to come home and kind of show off the city to all my teammates, I’m so excited about it and I know that TQL is gonna be just bumping and have the best atmosphere… I’m just gonna be glowing the whole night out of happiness.”Of playing at TQL Stadium, Lavelle added: “I think it’s so cool that soccer has a home here and it’s here to stay.”  (Of playing in Nippert Stadium previously, Lavelle said: “I think that that stadium’s so cool because it’s so big but it’s so close to the field, too. It feels such an intimate setting. You can hear all the fans that much louder because the stands go right onto the field basically. That was so fun the last time we played there.”) A U.S. Soccer media officer confirmed Saturday that ticketing for the Paraguay match had reached 21,000. The match will be staged following the USWNT’s 9-0 rout of Paraguay at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.Of course, there’s more to the Paraguay match than Lavelle. The biggest storyline to accompany the USWNT to Cincinnati is Carli Lloyd, who is using the Paraguay matches and two further friendly matches in October to draw the curtain on her historic national team career.In Thursday’s Paraguay victory, Lloyd scored five times to burst into third place on the USWNT all-time scoring list, surpassing Kristine Lilly. Lloyd’s impending departure from the national team program is widely seen as the front end of a generational transition for the USWNT, with head coach Vlatko Andonovski overseeing the turnover.  “Coming off the Olympics, we – obviously grateful to get a medal but obviously that wasn’t the medal we set out to get – I think we’re kind of out to get ready to get back out and re-prove ourselves,” Lavelle said. “I think hopefully we’ll be seeing new faces in camp because it’s always good to bring in some, like, good players who can push everyone here and push for spots. I think that’s what’s made this team so great and successful, and what makes this environment so hard. There’s always somebody knocking on the door, ready to take your spot. I think there’s a lot of really, really good players performing in the (NWSL) that hopefully will get brought in and continue to raise the level.”

Carli Lloyd scores five in United States’ runaway friendly win over Paraguay

Sep 16, 2021ESPN The United States women’s national team completely outclassed Paraguay in a 9-0 friendly win in Cleveland on Thursday night, with Carli Lloyd netting five goals in a runaway victory for Vlatko Andonovski’s side.The match marked the start of Lloyd’s farewell tour, with the U.S. veteran forward playing four matches with the national team after announcing her retirement in August.Lloyd got the start and immediately handed the U.S. the lead with a glancing header from a corner kick before firing in from close range to stake the Americans to a 2-0 advantage before the five-minute mark.Paraguay dug in to weather the U.S. pressure and did well for the next 20 minutes until Andi Sullivan tapped home at the back post and Lloyd added two more to get to four on the night and stake the Americans to a 6-0 lead at the break.The U.S. started the second half the way it finished the first — scoring goals — with Sullivan netting her second from a set piece with a flicked-on header that beat Paraguay keeper Cristina Recalde at her far post.Lloyd then added her fifth goal of the night, outjumping the Paraguay defense to power a header from a corner kick past Recalde to put the U.S. eight goals up.Tobin Heath, who joined Arsenal in the Women’s Super League this summer, came off the bench to score the ninth for the U.S., settling a long ball over the top of the Paraguay defense and easily slotting home.The match was the U.S. women’s first return to action since winning the bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer.Paraguay and the U.S. will play another friendly on Sept. 21

Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

John WEAVERSun, September 19, 2021, 4:06 PM·3 min read

Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United maintained their fearsome pace at the top of the Premier League at the weekend but early pacesetters Tottenham stumbled again.Jurgen Klopp’s men beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on Saturday before United responded with a drama-filled 2-1 win at West Ham and Chelsea beat Spurs 3-0 to leave all three clubs locked on 13 points.

Manchester City squandered two points at home to Southampton in a 0-0 stalemate while Brighton continue to impress, beating Leicester 2-1 to sit fourth in the table. AFP Sport picks out three talking points from the action in the English top-flight.

Liverpool still the real deal

— Jurgen Klopp’s side enjoyed a storming end to last season as they clinched a Champions League spot, even in the absence of talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk, who was injured.

But they look even better now with the Dutchman back at the heart of their defence and senior centre-backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip also fit again.

The Reds have conceded just once in their opening five Premier League matches — in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea — winning their other four games with an aggregate score of 11-0.

The 2020 champions had a quiet transfer window as their rivals splashed the cash and they could come to regret the departures of midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and forward Xherdan Shaqiri, particularly in light of an injury to teenager Harvey Elliott.

Liverpool do not boast the squad depth of some of their rivals but their first team is a match for anybody, with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah scoring freely.

If they can keep their main men fit they will feel confident they can win the Premier League for the second time in three years and equal Manchester United’s record of 20 top-flight titles.

Relentless Tuchel

— Thomas Tuchel can do no wrong at Chelsea.

The German transformed the fortunes of the London club in his first season in charge, taking Chelsea to their second Champions League triumph in May.

Now, with new recruit Romelu Lukaku leading the line, they are many pundits’ favourites to win the Premier League for the first time since 2017.

Chelsea did not even need goals from their forwards against Spurs on Sunday, with defenders Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger, plus midfielder N’Golo Kante, chipping in with the goals.

The Stamford Bridge side have already played Arsenal, Liverpool and now Spurs and are looking ominous but Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta urged the team to keep their feet on the ground.

“We have played some top teams and have got results in these first few games but we have to be humble,” he told Sky Sports.

Spurs, after a bright start to the season, are heading in the wrong direction after shipping six goals in their past two games and new boss Nuno Espirito Santo needs to stop the rot quickly.

Sancho seeks a role at Man Utd

— For a few short weeks Jadon Sancho was the eye-catching summer signing at Manchester United, finally through the door at Old Trafford after a protracted transfer saga.

Then came Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese superstar has hit the ground running, scoring four times in three games since his return to the club while Sancho has yet to even register an assist.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer argues that the former Borussia Dortmund man, at 21, is still learning the game.

But Sancho has not yet completed a single match in any competition for United and made minimal impact after coming on as a late substitute against West Ham at the London Stadium.

United have a galaxy of attacking talent and the England international will be keen to make his mark sooner rather than later as he tries to justify his £73 million ($100 million) fee.

Three takeaways from Seattle Sounders’ dramatic Leagues Cup semifinal triumph

By Ari Liljenwall @AriLiljenwallWednesday, Sep 15, 2021, 02:33 AM

SEATTLE – It doesn’t get much more dramatic than that.

The Seattle Sounders are through to the 2021 Leagues Cup Final after a heart-pounding 1-0 victory over Liga MX side Santos Laguna at Lumen Field on Tuesday, delivered by a last-second goal from star striker Raul Ruidiaz in the waning moments of second-half stoppage time.

The late rebound tally set off a wild celebration at Lumen Field and sets the Sounders up with a title bout against the winner of Wednesday’s second semifinal between Club Leon and Pumas UNAM, on September 22 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Here are three takeaways following Seattle’s memorable finish.

1

A result well-earned

The final score may have been 1-0 but make no mistake, this was a back-and-forth, well-played soccer match that put quality on display from both sides.

Santos Laguna gave the Sounders everything they could handle throughout the night, especially in the second half, notably coming within inches of opening the scoring themselves in the 65th minute when Diego Valdes ripped a vicious free kick past Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei and off the post. The Liga MX side were supremely disciplined on defense, especially in transition where they managed to keep Seattle’s counterattacks at bay until the very last play of the match.Simply put, that was just a good soccer game, the type of spectacle we all hope to see whenever MLS and Liga MX sides face off, whether it’s in the Leagues Cup, Concacaf Champions League or otherwise.”That was an entertaining soccer game for me,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match. “I know I was a little nervous on the bench and it was fast, but that first 45 minutes, it was like 15 minutes because the game was so fast. So credit to Guillermo [Almada], he has a tremendous team.

“I think every single person in this organization should be happy with what was in my eyes a really great result against a very well-coached, well-organized team in Santos Laguna.”

2

Another Ruidiaz masterpiece

We’re running out of superlatives for Ruidiaz at this point. The Peruvian standout’s goal-scoring exploits are well-known to MLS fans by now, but his propensity for scoring clutch goals is what truly makes him one of the league’s most lethal and feared strikers.

The stage simply doesn’t faze him, as has been demonstrated repeatedly since his 2018 arrival in Seattle throughout regular-season play (where he’s currently leading the Golden Boot presented by Audi race), the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and now in Leagues Cup.

As Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan noted after the match, Ruidiaz relished the opportunity to compete against opposition from the league where he previously starred for Atlético Morelia, winning a pair of Liga MX Golden Boots. Whoever the opponent is, you can bet Ruidiaz will bring that same energy and intensity in next week’s final.

“I think it’s mentality,” Roldan said at his postgame press conference. “You can see him become different when it’s a big moment. When we’re playing a Mexican side or when he has ties on the other team, there’s a little bit extra that he gives. You saw it in the LAFC game in 2019, I could see it in the All-Star game. You see it in moments like today.

“He was dangerous all game. It was unfortunate that he didn’t score another one in the first half but at the end of the day he’s a goal-scorer and he’ll find his way to score a goal.”

“This is our moment”

The Leagues Cup is still in its infancy as a tournament, but with this win, the Sounders now find themselves in position to achieve an accomplishment that has eluded them as an MLS club: Win an international tournament.

A final in Las Vegas gives Seattle a chance to make some history, both for the club and for the league, which is looking for its first Leagues Cup winner in this competition’s second edition. That, along with obvious storylines revolving around bragging rights between the rival leagues, are sure to lead conversations in both countries in the buildup to the final.

For Schmetzer, the trick will be figuring out how to maintain the balance between using this opportunity as motivation and not letting Seattle get too caught up in the moment. The veteran Sounders coach is certainly keen to not get swept up in the external narratives around the game.

“We’re caught up in the Seattle Sounders moment, that’s what we’re caught up in,” Schmetzer said. “This is our moment, it’s not Liga MX against MLS. You guys can write that story. What I’m writing is we are in another final, this organization, this club’s in another final. There are hundreds of storylines for this game: Fredy Montero started with us in 2009, he’s back and playing an important role for our success. How good is Raul Ruidiaz? There’s an easy storyline for you, that’s a layup for you.

“We did that without Nico [Lodeiro], without Nouhou today – I purposely kept those guys out because they had some soreness. This club is doing it in many different ways with many different lineups. You guys can write up what you want.”

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

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

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

 

Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

9/14/21  Champions League is Back Tues/Wed, Ronaldo Scores 2 in 1st Man U game/US beats Honduras Tix Avail in Columbus, USWNT Thur 7:30 ESPN2  

The greatest club competition is back as Champions League is back this week on Wednesday after some big games on Tues.  Man United was upset on the road by Young Boys on the road as American USMNT forward Jordan Pefok scored the latest goal by an American in Champions League to win 2-1 in stoppage time.  United played with 10 men for the last 60 minutes of the match as Wan-Bissaka’s 35th minute Red Card sent him off.  Ronaldo scored in his 2nd straight game – but his 1 goal was not enough for the win as he came off early.  Looking ahead to Wed’s game – I have the full line-up of games below/on the ole ballcoach.  I will be watching the golazo show on CBS Sportsnetwork as they jump from game to game and show all the goals. Of course all the games will be on Paramount plus- at just $5 per month – I broke down and got my subscription last year.  12 American’s are playing in Champions League – so I will try to keep an eye on them here in the group stages. 

USMNT Tix Available for Game in Columbus

Of course the US men are feeling better after the huge comeback 4-1 win at Honduras last week where new American forward Ricardo Pepi scored 2 had 1 assist and had a hand in all 4 goals at the #9 – all in the 2nd half.  He along with Center Back Miles Robinson and forward/mid Brendan Aaronson solidified their spots moving forward without doubt!  It was a huge win without Reyna, McKinney, Zardes and keeper Steffan who were all out.  The win puts the US in 3rd place as they return to play in mid October.  In fact tix are still available for the USA vs Costa Rica at Columbus on Wednesday October 13 at 7:30 pm. 

United States Ladies vs. Paraguay

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

The U.S. women head to Cleveland for their first game post-Olympics. Most of the players from that squad are on this roster, but four are injured: Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis and Megan Rapinoe. Christen Press also opted out to focus on her mental health.  Andi Sullivan, Sophia Smith, and Mallory Pugh have been called in. Pugh will be in the spotlight, having failed to make the Olympic team due to a drop in form. She has played well in the NWSL for the Chicago Red Stars, and playing well here would help improve her standing with the national team.

USWNT vs. Paraguay (Cincy) Tix Are On Sale Now

Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Location: TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Time: 7:30 PM ET

Deadline: First-come, first-served

Cute shot I found online Bears – playing soccer

US Men


Young Boys vs Manchester United final score: Undone by an American

USMNT World Cup qualifying: Is the team on track? Berhalter safe?

USA vs. Honduras, 2022 World Cup qualifying: Man of the Match

What the first round of World Cup Qualifying says about the USMNT By Parker Cleveland

USA v Honduras, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What we learned A tale of 2 halves.

USMNT overcome horrendous first half to pick up first World Cup qualifying win at Honduras

Wild window ends with Pepi leading the USMNT to a big 4-1 win in San Pedro Sula

USMNT storms back in Honduras for much-needed World Cup qualifying win

US Women


U.S. Soccer offers men, women identical deals
 
2hJeff Carlisle

USMNT, USWNT asked to equalize WC money

USWNT’s Press to take time out from soccer

Arsenal secure USWNT’s Heath on free transfer

USWNT September friendly roster released

Champions League


UEFA Champions League wrap: Juve, Bayern roll; USMNT’s Brooks sent off

Lewandowski at the double as Bayern outplay Barca again

 


This is it: Messi gets set for PSG Champions League bow

Mignolet takes heart from previous meeting as he prepares to face Messi

PSG boss Pochettino ‘excited’ to see Messi, Neymar and Mbappe


Liverpool face toughest Champions League group, says Klopp

Milan dreaming big ahead of Champions League return at Anfield

Ibrahimovic out of Milan’s Champions League return at Liverpool


Champions League final pain a ‘motor’ for Man City, says Guardiola

Haaland-inspired Dortmund braced for ’emotional’ test at Besiktas

Unpopular Leipzig still no match for Man City, PSG’s petrodollars

Marsch’s Leipzig maybe ‘not ready’ to face Man City


Tuchel tells Chelsea to recreate ‘addictive’ Champions League win

Lukaku fills Chelsea’s striker void

Azpilicueta: ‘We feel stronger’ than UCL champions: Pulisic, Kante injury updates

EPL and World
10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 4

Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

Ronaldo’s instant impact at Manchester United

Ronaldo’s Return Exceeds Expectations
Pep Guardiola lauds Manchester City win at Leicester


Bundesliga wrap: Haaland, Wirtz star in 7-goal thriller; Bayern rolls Leipzig

Lewandowski strikes again as Bayern sweep aside Leipzig

Young Boys vs Manchester United final score: Undone by an American 

WATCH: Ronaldo’s 1st Man United Champions League goal since 2009

Soccer on TV: The UEFA men’s Champions League group stage kicks off this week

Brenden Aaronson is one of 12 Americans in this season’s men’s UEFA Champions League group stage. He could make his debut in the competition Tuesday.  by Jonathan Tannenwald   Sep 14, 2021

Seattle Sounders v Santos Laguna, 10p on ESPN2, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling TV: Cristian Roldan is likely to feature for Seattle in this Leagues Cup semifinal, while Jordan Morris is back in training. Santos Laguna would normally feature young Mexican-USA striker Santi Muñoz, but he is on loan at Newcastle.

Champions League on Paramount+

Besiktas vs Dortmund

Wed 12:45 pm  Reyna is still out with an injured knee – but his team will start their campaign.  Paramount+)

The Golazo Show

Tuesday and Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET; Thursday, 12:45 p.m. ET. (CBS Sports Network, Paramount+)

Liverpool vs. AC Milan

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (Paramount+, TUDN.com)

These giants of England and Italy have only ever met in Champions League Finals: 2007, won by Milan, and 2005, won by Liverpool with one of the great comebacks in soccer history. It seems hard to believe that this will be their first-ever meeting between these historic clubs in the group stage.

Inter Milan vs. Real Madrid

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (Galavisión, Paramount+)

While Liverpool and Milan get reacquainted, Inter and Real will be saying, “Us again?” It’s the second straight season the two meet in the group stage, and Shakhtar Donetsk is in the same group again, too. Inter will not have forgotten that it finished last in the group last season, thanks in part to a 2-0 home loss to Real.

Manchester City vs. RB Leipzig

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (Paramount+, TUDN.com)

Jesse Marsch’s first Champions League game as Leipzig manager is a beast: a trip to a stacked Man City team that’s among the favorites to win it all this season.

Club Brugge vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (Univision 65, TUDN, Paramount+)

PSG signed Lionel Messi to help them win the Champions League, and the entire world knows it. With Manchester City and Leipzig in the same group, both games against Brugge are must-wins. US player Owen Otasowie has made the bench for Brugge once, but has yet to play. They host Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe in their Champions League opener.

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – MLS vs Mexico 

Philadelphia Union v Club América, 9p on FS1, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling TV: The Philadelphia menagerie of teenage American hopefuls hosts Las Águilas in the CCL semifinal second leg, trailing 0-2 after the reverse fixture at Estadio Azteca. Youngsters include Anthony Fontana, Leon Flach, Paxten Aaronson, Jack McGlynn, and Quinn Sullivan.

EUROPA LEAGUE 

Rennes vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Thursday, 12:45 p.m. ET (Paramount+, TUDN.com)

Harry Kane and Tottenham would much rather be in the Champions League, or even the Europa League. But they almost failed to qualify for the Europa Conference League. Spurs lost the first game of a qualifying playoff at Portugal’s Paços de Ferreira before winning at home in London, 3-0.

Rapid Wien vs. Genk

Thursday, 12:45 p.m. ET (Paramount+, TUDN.com)

Mark McKenzie could get his first taste of the Europa League as Genk travels to Austria’s capital.

Leicester City vs. Napoli

Thursday, 3 p.m. ET (UniMás, TUDN, Paramount+)

In terms of big names, this is the biggest of this week’s Europa League games. A lot of eyes in the U.S. will be on Napoli’s Mexican winger Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, to see if he can lead the Italian visitors to a win in England.

  • Galatasaray v Lazio, 12:45p on TUDN, Paramount+, fuboTV: DeAndre Yedlin and Galatasaray begin their Europa League campaign at home against the Serie A side.
  • Lokomotiv Moscow v Marseille, 12:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV: Konrad de la Fuente and Marseille make the long journey into Russia as they begin Europa League.
  • Real Betis v Celtic, 12:45p on Galavision, Paramount+, fuboTV, Sling TV: Cameron Carter-Vickers scored a nice goal via deflection for Celtic at the weekend. He’ll get his first taste of Europa League action away to Betis, as his parent club Tottenham could only manage the Conference League this season.
  • Rapid Wien v Genk, 12:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV: Mark McKenzie and Genk make the trip to Vienna as they open the Europa League.
  • Brøndby v Sparta Prague, 3p on Paramount+, fuboTV: Christian Cappis and Brøndby were unceremoniously dismissed from Champions League contention by Brenden Aaronson and Salzburg. They now begin Europa League business at home against the Czech side.
  • Roma v CSKA Sofia, 3p: Bryan Reynolds and Roma get Europa League proceedings on their way.

United States vs. Paraguay

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

The U.S. women head to Cleveland for their first game post-Olympics. Most of the players from that squad are on this roster, but four are injured: Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis and Megan Rapinoe. Christen Press also opted out to focus on her mental health.

Andi Sullivan, Sophia Smith, and Mallory Pugh have been called in. Pugh will be in the spotlight, having failed to make the Olympic team due to a drop in form. She has played well in the NWSL for the Chicago Red Stars, and playing well here would help improve her standing with the national team.

 

 

USMNT World Cup qualifying roundtable: Team on track? Berhalter safe? Players with stock up / down?

The United States men’s national team finished the opening round of World Cup qualifying on a high note with a win at Honduras after drab draws against El Salvador and Canada. Amid mounting injuries and off-pitch drama, the team learned tough lessons as it seeks to book its spot at Qatar 2022. ESPN looks back and breaks down the big issues.


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How do you feel about the results and the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying position?

Jeff Carlisle: If you’d told me before the start of the window that the U.S. would get five points from El Salvador (away), Canada (home) and Honduras (away), I would have been disappointed. But given where the team was at halftime of last night’s match in San Pedro Sula, being down 1-0 having been outshot 11 to 3, that mark is acceptable. The fact that out of six halves played, the U.S. performed well in only one of them is a concern as the search for consistency continues.

But the U.S. is tied for second place in the Octagonal, and while there are still some issues that have to be sorted out in terms of injuries and personnel, the Americans have a real opportunity in the October window to solidify that position. Seven points from Jamaica (home), Panama (away) and Costa Rica (home) should be the minimum obtained.

7dSam Borden

Kyle Bonagura: Prior to the first game against El Salvador, a five-point window would have seemed disappointing. That perspective changed significantly after the U.S. began the second half of the third match, against Honduras on Wednesday night, trailing 1-0 and on just two points in the standings. A loss to Honduras would have been disastrous; instead the U.S. emerged tied for second in the group (with Canada and Panama), behind only Mexico.

From a points and standings perspective, the U.S. is good shape. The way the team played, however, wasn’t exactly inspiring or confident. Until the four-goal barrage against Honduras in the second half, Gregg Berhalter’s side failed to generate consistent scoring chances, and that lack of ideas is a big reason for concern. Part of that can be attributed to the young team’s lack of familiarity from having rarely played together, but this is World Cup qualifying — there isn’t time to grow as a team; it’s about getting results.

Bill Connelly: It could have been much worse, and until the 75th minute in Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, it looked like it would be. From a pure math point of view, you probably need to average about 1.7 points per game to feel comfortable about qualification, and if you round up, the U.S. did hit that target.

But considering the level of competition in this trio of matches — no Mexico, no Costa Rica, plus Canada at home — this was a massive missed opportunity for the U.S. to build a bit of a cushion for itself. The Americans eventually wore Honduras down, nabbed three points and cleared the “bare minimum” bar.Dan Hajducky: Honduras victory notwithstanding, there’s still an urge to defy the edict of author Douglas Adams (of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame) and panic. However lofty the ranking, the U.S. is the 10th-best team in the world according to FIFA. Eking out ties against El Salvador and Canada, being outplayed and outcoached for half a game by Honduras — all ranked 59th or lower — is just not good enough. There’s time to correct course, but can Berhalter do it? Will Berhalter even get to?

This is still the most talented pool the USMNT has ever seen, but right now the results and statistics aren’t really good enough to be in Qatar, let alone compete there. Some of that is down to injuries, but squad selection, tactics and ultimately, execution have been suspect thus far. The turnaround in Honduras is a start; it was only the second time in USMNT’s World Cup qualifying history that the men have won after trailing at halftime. That USMNT? That should be the standard.


Is Berhalter the right man for the coaching job?

Carlisle: Yes, though even if the U.S. had lost on Wednesday, I don’t think he’d be fired. With the compressed schedule, there’s simply no time to change coaches with the qualification cycle in full swing. USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart isn’t the kind of guy to make knee-jerk changes to his technical staff, either, as was shown during his stint with the Philadelphia Union. However, there are some concerns.

Berhalter’s penchant for overthinking things tactically revealed itself on Wednesday night’s game, when he overreached by throwing James Sands and George Bello in at the deep end of a road World Cup qualifier. But give him credit for junking what wasn’t working in terms of personnel and formation and making the changes he needed to make, as those changes turned the game around. It’s a reminder that in these windows, there’s value in keeping things simple.

He also made the right call in sending Weston McKennie home. It sent the proper message to the group in terms of accountability, and the fact the U.S. won strengthens his position. The pressure has eased, at least for the moment.Bonagura: There’s a lot to like about the culture Berhalter has fostered and the results it has yielded over the past two years. The United States is unbeaten in its past 18 matches against CONCACAF opposition — including wins against Mexico in a pair of finals over the summer — and has generated at least some goodwill. That’s why it would have felt like an overreaction had Berhalter’s job truly been on the line after just three qualifying matches.

The obvious problem with changing a coach at this stage is that it guarantees nothing (see: Bruce Arena, 2017), though that doesn’t mean Berhalter is the right long-term choice, either. The team didn’t play to the sum of its parts in this window, and that’s on him.

Connelly: The bar for qualification is still pretty low for the U.S., and the Americans will probably clear it. But these matches rang some alarm bells. For three years, Berhalter has attempted to install his vision of a possession game, but he hasn’t been able to deploy it effectively in matches that genuinely matter (basically: World Cup qualifiers and any match against Mexico).

The U.S. found success against Mexico this summer with an old-school “directness and killer goalkeeping” recipe, but wasn’t able to retain the ball as he clearly wants to do. In the first three qualifiers, the U.S. (a) abandoned the possession game entirely against both El Salvador and Honduras, and (b) created no threat whatsoever from it against Canada.Bad luck with personnel certainly didn’t help. Christian Pulisic lost some form while out with a coronavirus diagnosis, Zack Steffen was out, Giovanni Reyna and Sergino Dest got hurt, and McKennie got sent home. (Plus, Daryl Dike was out of form.) That’s an incredible amount of attrition in a short time.

But it also illustrated just how strange Berhalter’s overall roster selection was. Without McKennie, he had no other midfielder capable of reliably moving the ball into the attacking third — for the 1,034th time, I must ask why Julian Green isn’t involved — and while McKennie and Reyna each created three chances in one match, Pulisic was the only other player who managed to create more than two in three matches.

Creativity is a must when your pool of center-forwards is lacking, and creativity was almost completely lacking. There was some misfortune, it’s true, but with maybe the deepest pool of talent the U.S. has ever had, Berhalter had to improvise both a lineup and a formation in the first genuine must-win (or close to it) the U.S. has faced in four years.

Hajducky: A friend, 20 minutes into the Honduras match, compared watching Berhalter’s men to a crash in slow motion. The #BerhalterOut discourse seems to have mellowed since halftime on Wednesday night, but questions about his job security are legion and well-founded.

In this Octagonal, the U.S. men are CONCACAF’s last and first-ranked teams, respectively, in percentage of touches in the left- and middle-attacking thirds. They also led, by a wide margin, in possessions lost. Translation: Predictable. And, arguably worse, substitution management was baffling until Honduras, when three halftime subs — Antonee RobinsonSebastian Lletget and Brenden Aaronson — yielded four second-half goals.

While injuries have limited both pool and starting XI selection, formations have been puzzling — and far too defensive-minded — and the McKennie situation has a whiff of impending calamity. It all feels a bit like the trash compactor scene in “Star Wars.” But, for the moment, the walls have stopped closing in and we should be grateful the cavalry arrived in time.


Which players deserve a place on the plane? Who demonstrated they do not?

Carlisle: Let’s start with those whose stock fell. John Brooks was supposed to be a steadying, veteran presence during qualifying. He was anything but in these two games, raising doubts once again about his ability to cope with the difficulties and idiosyncrasies of CONCACAF. Josh Sargent is another. He looked lost out on the wing against Honduras, but even when he plays centrally, he rarely looks dangerous. He has logged minutes because no one else has really grabbed hold of the No. 9 spot, but that looks to be changing.

Ricardo Pepi, meanwhile, is the first striker in some time to really seize his opportunity. Sure, he has work to do in terms of his hold-up play, but he can sniff out chances and creates havoc in the box too. Antonee Robinson is another player whose stock went way up. The big reason Sergino Dest has played left-back is there didn’t seem to be any other options. There is now with Robinson, whose mobility allows him to get into the attack and put in dangerous crosses, as witnessed by his assist against Canada. His defending has improved as well.Bonagura: The most obvious is Pepi, the 18-year-old FC Dallas striker. After scoring the winner against Honduras and being involved in all three other goals, he presumably went from debutant to starting No. 9. Aaronson has also proved to be a valuable option on the wing, and his emergence should make it easier for Reyna to move into central midfield, where he’s playing for Dortmund this season.

Robinson staked his claim to be the locked-in starter at left-back, which had been one of the biggest questions facing the team. After standout performances in the Gold Cup, Atlanta United center-back Miles Robinson and New England goalkeeper Matt Turner have both continued to excel.

Connelly: Beyond the obvious — Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Reyna, McKennie, Dest — it’s hard to say that anyone definitively snared a spot in this batch of matches. You could make the case for Turner, but he’s just shaky enough in build-up play that it wouldn’t be completely surprising if Berhalter still preferred Steffen. Obviously Pepi’s debut was lovely, but if you’re giving an 18-year-old a permanent spot in the lineup because of one good match, that speaks more to your own depth issues than anything else.

Hajducky: All aboard the Pepi train! Could he be the No. 9 the Stars & Stripes have long pined for? It’s early, but should his form continue, Pepi belongs in Qatar, and he might well have broken the MLS’ all-time outgoing transfer record by then. Aaronson is a shoo-in at this point, and it should also be noted just how ascendant Turner has been. Zack Steffen is still the No. 1 stonewall, but the chasm isn’t quite as vast, considering Turner’s leapfrogging of Ethan Horvath.

The most disappointing? Depends whom you ask. McKennie seems like both the fiery, bullish leader necessary of U.S. men on the field and entirely too immature off it. The moment has proved to be too big for Sargent, too, but for me, the biggest letdown has been Brooks. Both the Canada and Honduras goals were conceded due to his glaring defensive errors: a man-marking blunder and an overcommitment that left his teammates out to dry.

In light of injuries and illness, does the USMNT have enough depth?

Carlisle: Yes. If you had told me beforehand that the U.S. would win last night’s game without McKennie, Dest, Reyna, Steffen and Pulisic (for part of it, anyway) I wouldn’t have believed you. The players who turned last night’s game around weren’t European stars, but rather guys like Pepi, Aaronson, Robinson, Sebastian Lletget and Cristian RoldanMark McKenzie, in tandem with Miles Robinson, quietly put in a very effective shift as well. Turner’s play in goal was such that Steffen wasn’t missed.

It gives Berhalter a puzzle to solve ahead of the October window, but it’s the kind of problem any manager wants to have. It should also help avoid any complacency that might set in.

Bonagura: Regardless of the quality of the performances, depth remains one of the team’s strengths. Aside from maybe Mexico, no other team in the region could have weathered going without that many key players as Jeff mentioned above.

Connelly: We knew forward depth would be an issue in this cycle, especially without Dike, and it very much was. But the midfield issues — as in, the total lack of a cohesive buildup when McKennie was out — were alarming. Either the U.S. has poor depth there or, more realistically in my view, Berhalter’s midfield selections were dramatically out of whack. I would hope he brings in a completely different set of options there in October, and then we can decide whether it’s a depth problem or a selection problem.

Hajducky: It’s sort of hilarious that we’re talking about depth concerns; a year ago, we weren’t sure there’d be enough room on the field for all their emerging talent. But Jamaica is almost a full month away and three of the next four qualifiers are home games.

It would be shocking if the U.S. came out as flat in October, given Berhalter’s struggles and the home-field advantage. And make no mistake about it: This is a big moment for McKennie, no stranger to a captain’s armband. Does he make amends, hold himself accountable and reclaim his place as the team’s fulcrum? Pulisic might be the face and hope of men’s U.S. Soccer, but McKennie is its engine. The USMNT’s success hinges on McKennie firing on all cylinders.

What do you want to see from the October fixtures?

Carlisle: Assuming they’re healthy, reward the players who performed well in this window. Keep performers like Pepi, Turner and Aaronson, plus the Robinsons, in the lineup. And please keep Adams in the center of midfield. The U.S. is a better team with him in the middle, period.

And not that the U.S. has control over this, but a bit more health would be nice. Hopefully, the likes of Pulisic, Dest and Reyna can recover. If this window revealed anything, it’s how demanding triple-fixture windows are and the degree to which they can tax a squad. (Honduras found this out the hard way last night.) Getting some guys back to health will help the U.S. maintain some momentum.

Bonagura: It’s not so much what I want to see as whom I want to see: Yunus Musah. He provides a toughness and bite in central midfield that the team lacked outside of Adams over the past three games. His ability to progress the ball in an advanced midfield position was sorely lacking and would free up the wingers to work in more space. With McKennie’s status up in the air, a midfield trio of Reyna, Musah and Adams is very intriguing.

Connelly: Wins! It’s three more matches against Not Mexico, and the U.S. needs at least 5-7 points from the next nine to keep feeling good about its trajectory. Beyond that, though, I’d like to see a squad selection from Berhalter that acknowledges and adjusts for this week’s struggles. If his first-choice lineup is fully available again, then the backups he selects might not matter as much, but it would be good to see that he understands where things nearly went very wrong this time around.

(I’d also like to see an actually cohesive identity — it suddenly vanished — but baby steps. Start with the squad selection.)

Hajducky: More of Pulisic playing like a man possessed, for starters. We don’t know how serious the knock is that he suffered against Honduras, but the Chelsea forward has been transcendent of late. Four years after World Cup heartbreak, he’s no longer the baby-faced future; he’s the now, playing with confidence earned from that Champions League title with his club and not shirking from the weight of America’s soccer future on his oft-battered shoulders. But that’s a no-brainer.

I’m also all-in on the Pepi hype. There’s poetry in the U.S. scouring the globe for a true No. 9 and Pepi having just sprouted out of Texas, fully formed and lethal. Meanwhile, I’d love to see what Dike and Weah could create together when healthy, and also see Steffen get some quality minutes.

Will Berhalter be more discerning in squad selection, formation and tactics? Can the cornerstones get healthy by then? Can the second half of Honduras become the default pace and grit that this team kicks off with? How will the McKennie affair be resolved? Four weeks is somehow both an eternity and a blink of an eye.

 

 

9/8/21  US Ties Canada plays huge game tonight vs Honduras 10 pm CBSSN, Indy 11 at home vs Sporting KC 2 Sat

US Ties Canada 1-1

Ok so the concept on World Cup Qualifying is you win your home games and tie a few road games and you are good to advance to the World Cup.  The US failed to qualify for the 2018 WC after losing their first home and away games to Mexico and Costa Rica.  Now the US faces the prospect of having to steal a win tonight at Honduras as 10 pm on CBS Sports Network.   Listen we have 2 points after a tie at home to Canada.  Now Canada is good now – but they aren’t better than the US.  Of course with the US missing Reyna (injury), McKinney (discipline), and Dest (injured ankle) things we destined to dicey with Canada.  They have the best player in North America in Alphonso Davies – the Bayern Munich man ran down our left side like we were standing still and embarrassed both Dest and Yedlin multiple times.  I thought Adams did a fine job of keeping him from killing us in the 1st half – but that second half run after we scored 8 minutes earlier was vintage Canada.  The issue I had was Brooks who stood and watched Laurin tap in the goal 3 feet in front of him.  Just horrific defending – which makes me wonder if he should be replaced by Zimmerman on the left inside with Sands in the middle much like he played in the Gold Cup.  I doubt coach Gregg will pull his top rated defender however – so perhaps a 3 center back line-up with Brooks/Sands or Zimmerman with outside high back – would allow us to tuck a little more and counter attack.  Leaving lots of room for Pulisic and Aaronson to run at the defense.  For this reason I like Sargeant up top – but would love to see the kid Pepi come in around the 65th minute or so – we need goals – why not !!  

Sargeant

Pulisic/Aaronson  

Lletget

Adams

Robinson/Brooks/Sands/Miles R/Yedlin

Turner

Of course huge news on Weston McKinney – who broke Covid protocol when he spent the night out of the hotel bubble and then sneaked someone (a girl) into his room on another night.  Again – Weston McKinney is a huge leader on this team and it sucks that he not only let down his team – but also the entire damn country.   Now I assume he’ll be back in the next group of games in October – but his action probably lost the game to Canada and he needs to own up to that !!   Tonight – I just don’t see how the US pulls off this must win game tonight?   Yes we have won there 2 times in the past.  But I am hoping for a 1-1 tie tonight.  I will be so happy with a 2-1 win.  Either way – we CAN NOT LOSE TONIGHT.  We need at least a tie and 3 points after 3 games with a lot to do in October. 

US ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 23/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 7/0)

DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United; 3/0), John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 43/3), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 11/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 6/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 45/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 12/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 9/3), James Sands (New York City FC; 6/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 64/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 17/2)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 37/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 14/1), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 29/7), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 24/7), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 25/0)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg/AUT; 7/3), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille/FRA; 1/0), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys/SUI; 6/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 38/16), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 8/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 16/5),

Indy 11 Home Sat Night at the Mike vs Sporting KC 2 – 7 pm TV 23

The Indy 11 struggled to a 2-1 loss Sat night vs Atlanta United.  They travel to FC Tulsa for a midweek game on ESPN+ at 7 pm tonite.  This Sat Indy 11 host Sporting KC 2 at 7 pm on TV 23 for Faith and Family Night. 

Carmel Boys Pack the House Night – Fri Night vs Columbus North High

The Carmel Boys are 3-2-1 on the season and ranked 11th in the state and they host pack the house night on Friday night !!

GAMES OF THE WEEK (World Cup Qualifying)

Wed, Sept 8

7 pm               Costa Rica vs Jamaica Paramount+

7:30 pm         Canada vs El  Salvador Paramount +

9 pm               Panama vs Mexico Paramount+

10 pm            Honduras vs USA CBS Sports Network, Paramount+

Thurs, Sept 9

7 pm               Colombia vs Chile Fubo

7:30 pm         Argentina vs Bolivia Fubo

8:30 pm         Brazil vs Peru  Fubo

5 pm               Equador vs Chile Fubo

Fri, Sept 10

3 pm               Lorient vs Lille – France beIN Sport

7:30 pm         Atlanta United vs Orlando City FS1

10 pm             Tiajuana vs Santos Laguna FS2

Sat, Sept 11

7:30 am          Crystal Palace vs Tottenham NBCSN

930am            Leverkusen vs Dortmund ESPN+

10 am             Leicester City vs Man City  Peacock

10 am             Blackpool vs Fulham (Ream + Robinson) Champ

12 noon          Napoli vs Juventus  paramount +

12:30 pm       Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Aston Villa NBC  

12:30 pm       Leipzig vs Bayern Munich ESPN+

3:30 pm         Colorado vs LA Galaxy Univision

7 pm Indy 11 vs Sporting KC 2 TV 23

7:30 pm         Atlanta United vs Orlando City FS1

10 pm             Tiajuana vs Santos Laguna FS2

Sun, Sept 11

9:30 am         Frankfort vs Stuttgart

11:30 am        Leeds vs Liverpool  

12 noon          Milanvs Lazio  Paramount +

USWNT vs. Paraguay (Cincy) Tix Are On Sale Now

Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Location: TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Time: 7:30 PM ET

Sale opens: Now

Deadline: First-come, first-served

USA


How will USMNT line up for must-win WCQ in Honduras?

Amid a lackluster WCQ start and McKennie’s dismissal, USMNT faces pivotal game in Honduras

Analysis: USMNT stumbles in qualifying following 1-1 home draw to Canada

Pulisic, USMNT eye ‘results’ after McKennie exit
U.S. soccer braces for hostility, gamesmanship during World Cup qualifier in Honduras

What can we learn from the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier in Honduras?

United States men’s national soccer team not panicking after drawing with Canada in World Cup qualifying

Opinion: USMNT off to a disappointing start, but it’s not time to push panic button. Yet.
USA Today   Jeff Carlisle
Berhalter defends McKennie sanction ahead of Honduras clash

Reports: Weston McKennie disciplined for breaching USMNT’s COVID-19 bubble twice

USA vs.Honduras, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for S&S By Donald Wine II

United States v Canada, 2022 World Cup Qualifying: What we Learned

USA vs. Canada, 2022 World Cup qualifying: Man of the Match

2022 World Cup Qualifying: USA 1-1 Canada – a disappointing result as the Americans fail to win at home
USMNT’s McKennie sent back to Juventus for rules violation; Reyna out

Player ratings: USMNT held to draw by Canada in World Cup qualifying

Player Ratings :  
USMNT can’t capitalize on chances, plays to draw with Canada in World Cup qualifier

USA keeper Steffen tests positive for Covid-19

WORLD

FIFA ‘regrets’ chaos at abandoned Brazil v Argentina match
Uproar as Brazil v Argentina clash abandoned following Covid controversy

Uproar as Brazil v Argentina clash suspended following Covid controversy


Italy set new unbeaten record as Germany thump Armenia

Indy 11

·      PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN TRAVELS TO FC TULSA FOR MIDWEEK ACTION

·      USL CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: INDY ELEVEN 0 : 1 ATLANTA UNITED 2

·      INDY ELEVEN AND FORWARD JORDAN HAMILTON TERMINATE CONTRACT

Here We Go Again?

The USMNT Ties Canada 1-1 At Home, Brings Back the Insecurities of Failing to Qualify for World Cup 2018

   Grant Wahl Sep 6 13 4

SMNT coach Gregg Berhalter needs a win in Honduras Wednesday (Artwork by Dan Leydon for Fútbol with Grant Wahl)

Welcome to Fútbol with Grant Wahl — a newsletter about soccer. You can read what this is about here. If you like what you see, consider forwarding it to some friends. You can also click the button below to subscribe. And if you do like it, consider going to the paid versionThis story is free since we just launched, but future stories like it will be behind the paywall due to the resources required producing quality soccer journalism. I also wrote My 3 Thoughts on the USMNT-Canada game at the final whistle. You can subscribe for free to the Fútbol with Grant Wahl Podcast, including our USMNT-Canada breakdown with Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham, in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and Friends.NASHVILLE — During the first half of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier against Canada on Sunday, the enormous video screens at Nissan Stadium showed a red-cheeked home supporter as he poured beer into a quart-sized cup, reared back and proceeded to empty the entire container down his throat. All told, it took about 15 seconds, and if we’re being honest there was some talent involved here. The crowd of 43,028 gave him a rousing ovation in one of the U.S.’s hardest-partying cities—never mind that the game was still going on—and as I watched I couldn’t help but think of Weston McKennie.Weston McKennie?You know him. He’s the USMNT’s mayor of fun times and good vibes, one of the coolest guys on any team he’s on—even when that team is Italian powerhouse Juventus. This is often the case with American soccer players in Europe. Injuries may have cut short Oguchi Onyewu’s time at AC Milan, but he was one of the coolest guys on the team, someone who’d hang out with Ronaldinho. It’s a measure of McKennie’s surpassing coolness that even Onyewu was impressed not long ago when McKennie revealed on the former’s podcast that he has a live-in personal photographer in Turin.The 23-year-old McKennie is a delightful guy. I know this from first-hand experience. His teammates love him. And he’s a good midfielder, enough so that Juventus paid an €18.5 million ($22.3 million) transfer fee for him last season. But there are now multiple examples that McKennie’s love for social interaction can cost his team when he should know better. During a tight Serie A race last spring, McKennie and two Juve teammates (Paulo Dybala and Arthur) were fined and suspended a game by the club after the American hosted a dinner party that broke Italy’s Covid protocols. And on Sunday afternoon, U.S. players were informed at a pregame team meeting that McKennie would be suspended for the Canada match that night. Coach Gregg Berhalter declined to specify the reasons, but McKennie posted on Instagram that he had violated team Covid protocols and apologized for his actions.  “It’s not an ideal situation, because he’s such an important player and important character to this team,” said the U.S.’s Tyler Adams on Sunday night. “He brings obviously what he does on the field, but even off the field in how close he brings the team together … it’s obviously very disappointing.”

The U.S. ended up tying Canada 1-1, a result that left the Yanks with just two points after their first two World Cup qualifiers and brought back painful memories of the U.S.’s failure to make it to World Cup 2018. McKennie was hardly the only figure at fault for the two dropped points at home, but his case strikes me as similar to that of the fan being cheered by the entire stadium for chugging a quart of beer on the Jumbotron for 15 seconds in the middle of the game. Yeah, beer’s great. So is being social. But there’s a time and a place, and there are priorities. 

Like, you know, the game.


Christian Pulisic looked exhausted. He had just played his first match in 23 days, after testing positive for Covid-19 three weeks ago, and he had gone the full 90 minutes after it wasn’t even certain he would play at all ahead of Sunday. But it was still hard to tell how much of his weariness was mental as he thought back to the World Cup qualifying campaign four years ago.

“We wanted to win both of these games, absolutely,” he said on Sunday night. “But this is the position we’re in now. I remember the last qualifying [campaign] losing both our first two games. So this is what it is now. We have plenty of games left to play in this qualifying, you know. It’s almost like a season. We still have a long way to go. So our heads are going to stay up.”Brenden Aaronson had put the U.S. ahead 1-0 in the 56th minute after a terrific passing sequence capped by Antonee Robinson’s assist. The lead held for just six minutes, until Alphonso Davies broke free down the left side, whooshed past the U.S. defense and laid off to Cyle Larin for the equalizer. The crowd went silent.

Pulisic’s postgame comments indicated he thought the U.S. would have been better off trying to shut up shop after the opening goal, but he didn’t see it happening. “After we score our first goal we need to be able to win a game like that 1-0 at times,” Pulisic said. “I think whether that’s making adjustments or sometimes even having to defend a bit more, it’s tough to say. I don’t think we changed a whole lot, but we got beat, and they score and that was tough. Then in the end we just didn’t have enough to get a winner.”

I asked Berhalter after the game about his thought process for waiting until the 83rd minute to bring on his first second-half subs. He said he felt among his attacking players, forward Jordan Pefok was still being somewhat effective with his physicality, while Aaronson had been solid with his counterpressing. “I can understand how it looks like we should have acted quicker, 100 percent,” Berhalter said. “In this situation, we’re looking at the performance of the guys and trying to figure out who we’re going to take off the field.”

“I remember the last qualifying [campaign] losing both our first two games. So this is what it is now. We have plenty of games left to play in this qualifying, you know. It’s almost like a season. We still have a long way to go. So our heads are going to stay up.” — Christian Pulisic

Ultimately, the U.S. had 72 percent of possession but just two shots on goal, the same as Canada. Pulisic talked about needing to find new ideas to break down Canada’s compact 5-4-1 formation. Berhalter said he wanted faster ball movement. And Adams, who just a few days ago said he wanted this to be a nine-point week, contemplated his leadership challenge over the next two days to get a crucial three points in Honduras—which would bring the U.S. to five points for the week.

“We’ve got to have a long look in the mirror and really establish what our goals are here,” Adams said. “Obviously, three points in Honduras is what we’re looking to do. But what do we need to do in the game to get the best out of the team and every single player? Because it’s not going to be just the starting 11 and 11 good performances. We need 16 good performances. And the subs that are coming in, how can they change the game? How can we get the best out of every single player? So we need to challenge ourselves.” 

The U.S. won’t have Gio Reyna, who’s out with a hamstring injury. Sergiño Dest (ankle sprain) may be out as well, and Berhalter said it remained to be seen if McKennie would be reinstated by Wednesday. Anything less than a win will leave Berhalter on the hot seat.


There have been a few bright spots for the U.S. this week, none more so than goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Why has the 27-year-old Turner, who plays for MLS’s New England Revolution, become a kind of American soccer folk hero? A lot of it has to do with his remarkable story. As a teenager in northern New Jersey whose main sport was baseball, Turner didn’t start playing club soccer seriously until he was 16, ancient for a youth player. The only college in any division to offer him a scholarship was Fairfield in Connecticut, where he had a solid performance his last two years but was most famous for the play that cost him his starting job as a sophomore, a terrible own-goal that was named the No. 1 play in ESPN SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 in 2013:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/ec4TNK2laeg?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0 Turner wasn’t selected in the 2016 MLS draft, but an agent got him a tryout with New England, and he earned a contract offer. After two seasons playing on loan with the Richmond Kickers in the lower-league USL, Turner won the Revolution starting job in 2018 under then-coach Brad Friedel, one of the greatest keepers in U.S. history. And after some fits and starts that season, Turner has over the past three years become a shot-stopping phenomenon unseen in the history of MLS.

In the modern game, the goalkeeper position is about much more than just shot-stopping, personified by Germany’s Manuel Neuer and his innovation of the “sweeper keeper” role, in which he starts the attack with his passing skills and ventures far from goal to snuff out danger in the space behind his defenders’ high back line. 

“I’ve been the fan who was tweeting about the games. I’ve been that guy. I joke around saying I’m the People’s Keeper. I’ve been in the Blind Pig in New York City before it closed down, watching EPL in the mornings and national team games at night. So I’ve seen and heard all of it.” — Matt Turner

But guess what? Shot-stopping is still a really big deal, even in the modern game. And the data shows that Turner is a savant. As John Muller of 538 noted recently using data from American Soccer Analysis, Turner has saved over 25 goals more than expected going back to the start of 2018 (including the postseason), while the second-best MLS keeper over that time (Seattle’s Stefan Frei) is far behind with less than 13. 

Berhalter is an unapologetic data wonk, so much so that he even knocked me out of my old role hosting soccer panels at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference earlier this year. (Let’s be honest: They made an upgrade.) You had better believe that Berhalter knows Turner’s analytics profile. “In terms of data, when goalies outperform expected goals, it’s always something you like,” Berhalter said the day before the Canada game. “And Matt has been doing that all season long with New England Revolution, and that means he can make the big save, and that’s what you want in goalkeepers.”Turner, for his part, says he doesn’t try to overthink his shot-stopping ability. “It’s hard for me to even describe because it always came very naturally to me,” he told me in a recent interview. “Technically speaking, I think the biggest piece would be just to make sure you’re set. Make sure your feet are on the ground when the ball’s being struck. Be brave. Make sure your head is forward. If you’re diving and you’re landing on your back, or you’re just flinging your legs out, you’re going to make fewer saves in my opinion than you would if you were [leaning] forward with your hands forward.”

His baseball history, Turner argues, played a role in his rise as a soccer shot-stopper. “From a timing perspective, and an ability to react right and left, I think baseball was huge for me,” he says. “I always say that I think some baseball outfielders would be very good goalkeepers, because you see the catches they make. They’re not afraid to throw their body around, not afraid to dive and slide. Their timing, their jump on the ball, their read is all really good.”

From a national-team perspective, though, Turner started the summer as no better than the No. 3 goalkeeper behind Zack Steffen of Manchester City and Ethan Horvath, now of Nottingham Forest. But Turner seized his opportunity during the Gold Cup. With Berhalter not calling up the U.S.’s top European-based players, Turner was magnificent, conceding only one goal across six games and being chosen the tournament’s top keeper as the U.S. won the trophy. 

When Steffen developed back spasms last week, Berhalter chose Turner to start the first World Cup qualifier in El Salvador over Horvath (who hasn’t been the first-choice keeper at Forest). Turner kept a clean sheet and made a good save on Eriq Zavaleta’s set-piece header in the second half. “Matt performed really well in the game,” Berhalter said on Saturday. “I was most impressed, I think, with his calmness. It wasn’t an easy environment, but he really made everything look easy. There was one play in the first half where the ball got away from him and went out for a corner kick. Other than that, I think he was flawless. He caught the balls, came out on crosses, his distribution was good. So for me, it was a good performance.”

In a one-on-one interview on Saturday in Nashville, Turner was still struggling to put his rise to World Cup-qualifying starter in perspective. “It’s crazy, absolutely,” he said. “I want to be the guy in the goal. I’ve felt like I’ve grown into it, and I’ve done well in MLS over the past four seasons. I haven’t given much of what’s happened to me this whole summer too much thought yet. I kind of leave that for the offseason. Being present and grounded right now is something I’ve found so much power in, and it’s helped me to find consistency in my game as well.”During his whirlwind qualifying week with the USMNT, Turner took comfort from talking on the phone with his girlfriend, Ashley Herron, a consultant, nonprofit founder and former New England Patriots cheerleader; his longtime friend Vinny Macaluso (“Yeah, Vinny from Jersey,” Turner cracked); and his New England teammate and former roommate, centerback Andrew Farrell. “He’s been like my rock,” Turner explained. “If I can’t sleep and it’s the middle of the night, I can call Andrew, and he’s there for me. He keeps me going if I’m wavering in nerves and knows exactly what to say to me.”“If I can’t sleep and it’s the middle of the night, I can call Andrew, and he’s there for me.” Matt Turner relies on his New England teammate and former roommate Andrew Farrell for one club teammate Turner didn’t talk to heading into Sunday’s game was Tajon Buchanan, a rising-star winger for Canada. As Turner and the U.S. prepared to try to shut down Buchanan and fellow attackers Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Junior Hoilett and Cyle Larin, Turner and Buchanan (whose New England team is running roughshod over the rest of MLS) went radio-silent with each other.“It’s funny, Tajon and I pretty much talk almost every single day, and we sit next to each other in the locker room back with the Revs, but as soon as we leave for our national teams we pretty much don’t talk,” Turner said with a laugh. “We have a great relationship, but I think neither one of us would want to put the other one in a tough spot where you’re like, ‘Oh, so how are you guys playing?’ So I think we just sort of respect the boundary and the space, and it’s all good.”

The world works in mysterious ways, Turner thought to himself last week, but it has a way of rewarding you for your efforts over a long period of time. Turner couldn’t help but reflect on all the tryouts and trials he went on earlier in his soccer career. Some of them worked out, some didn’t, whether they were for high school, or college, or even the pros. But they helped last week when he was suddenly finding himself playing in the USMNT’s most important games with different centerbacks for the very first time: Tim Ream in El Salvador and John Brooks against Canada.

“I think the most important thing is just communication on and off the field,” Turner said. “It’s nice to get to know people. I went to so many different tryouts—you know my story. The biggest thing was I was always trying to make a team and put forth good performances with people I’ve never played with before. Learning their names quickly and how to communicate with them and how to adapt to the circumstances as quickly as possible—I think that’s definitely been a strength of mine.”

“Andrew Farrell has been like my rock. If I can’t sleep and it’s the middle of the night, I can call Andrew, and he’s there for me. He keeps me going if I’m wavering in nerves and knows exactly what to say to me.” — Matt Turner

On Sunday, Turner was one of four MLS players among the 11 starters on the U.S. team. He knows there’s a section of the USMNT fanbase that thinks no MLS players should be on the field for the Yanks in World Cup qualifiers. But he doesn’t see the point of dividing the team, nor does he feel like he’s carrying the banner for MLS. 

“Whoever goes out there and gets the job done, you just have to say they got the job done,” he said on Saturday. “It shouldn’t be hate or love. I’ve been the fan who was tweeting about the games. I’ve been that guy. I joke around saying I’m the People’s Keeper. I’ve been in the Blind Pig in New York City before it closed down, watching EPL in the mornings and national team games at night. So I’ve seen and heard all of it. I think you just have to respect everyone and their story and how it came about. Until you get as close to it as I am right now, you realize that all that Euro versus domestic stuff doesn’t even matter.”

Soon enough, Turner himself might be playing in Europe. Two years ago, he secured a European Union passport from Lithuania after finding papers owned by his paternal grandfather that showed his great-grandmother had immigrated from the Baltic country. “We didn’t even know we were Lithuanian,” he says, adding that he discovered his family had changed its name from Turnovski upon arrival at Ellis Island. 

A European Union passport makes it far easier to move to a club in Europe. “I’m highly motivated to make that happen,” Turner says. “That being said, I’m in a great situation with my club right now. I’m playing well and I’m getting called into the national team. So it’s a balance of a lot of things. You can’t force these things to happen, but I would love to go play in the Premier League or a high level in the [English] Championship.”

By Sunday night, it was becoming clear that the No. 1 U.S. goalkeeper job is now Turner’s to lose. He was solid for the second straight game and made a terrific save on Larin’s shot in the first half after Dest had blundered in defense. (There was nothing Turner could have done on Larin’s goal later.) There’s a sense of calm when you have Turner in goal; even when Canada threatened, you felt like he would be able to make the save. 

Even if Steffen can get some games for Man City in cup competition over the next month, it’s hard to imagine him taking the No. 1 spot back from Turner next month.


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USA vs. Canada, 2022 World Cup qualifying: Man of the Match

CanadaBy jcksnftsn  Sep 7, 2021, 8:36am Returning home from a disappointing draw, the USMNT settled for a second straight draw that felt more like a loss to start World Cup qualifying. With quite a bit on the line and facing a Canada team coming off a home draw with Honduras, the team came out and looked active but ultimately punch-less as they dominated possession but lacked incisiveness. The player rankings were not as dire as they were following the draw-loss to El Salvador, but they weren’t exactly a ringing endorsement either.Goalscorer Brenden Aaronson was officially your SSFC Man of the Match with the highest community ranking coming in at 7.02, edging out Matt Turner (6.72), who was Thursday’s MOTM. Interestingly, three of the four substitutes received the only ratings below a 5.0. In the case of DeAndre Yedlin, the lowest rated player, this seems to be due to the community placing primary blame for the lone Canadian goal at his feet. For Konrad de la Fuente and Cristian Roldan, the ratings seem a bit harsh as they only had a handful of minutes to impact the game due to the late substitution utilization by Gregg Berhalter.We’ve made a couple of small tweaks to the ratings this week. First, we calculated the average rankings with the highest and lowest ratings removed and have included those in parentheses behind the original rating. We’re sticking with the original rating as the primary to stay consistent, but thought there might be some interest in seeing how the ratings adjust if you remove the most biased votes. Not surprisingly, the manager’s rating is the most impacted by this adjustment, as Gregg Berhalter gains over a point in benefit. The other changes in rating are not nearly as significant and the most impacted is DeAndre Yedlin, who moves from a 4.4 to a 4.7. Second, we’ve also moved the manager and referee results to the bottom.Here are all the ratings from the match, as judged by the SSFC community:

Brenden Aaronson – 7.02 (adjusted 7.01)

Matt Turner – 6.72 (6.70)

Tyler Adams – 6.65 (6.66)

Antonee Robinson – 6.59 (6.63)

Miles Robinson – 6.43 (6.44)

Christian Pulisic – 6.37 (6.30)

Jordan Pefok – 5.40 (5.50)

Sergino Dest – 5.35 (5.51)

Josh Sargent – 5.34 (5.52)

John Brooks – 5.32 (5.48)

Kellyn Acosta – 5.25 (5.37)

Sebastian Lletget – 5.15 (5.35)

Cristian Roldan – 4.81 (5.04)

Konrad de la Fuente – 4.81 (4.99)

DeAndre Yedlin – 4.40 (4.70)

Gregg Berhalter – 2.76 (3.99)

Referee Oshane Nation – 5.43 (5.77)

Player ratings: USMNT held to draw by Canada in World Cup qualifying

By Andy EdwardsSep 5, 2021, 10:24 PM EDT

The USMNT is winless after its first two games of 2022 World Cup qualifying after drawing Canada 1-1 in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday.Brenden Aaronson gave the USMNT a 1-0 lead in the 55th minute, but Alphonso Davies sliced and diced the Yanks’ right side of defense to set up the equalizer seven minutes later.On the whole, a few individual performances were improved from the draw in El Salvador, but the team performance and the result were still well short of the necessary standard.Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary (of the dissenting variety) from PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized)…

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GK – Matt Turner: 6 – Once again, hardly tested (just two shots on target) but typically steady when called upon. Hasn’t had to do enough to fully supplant Zack Steffen as the no. 1, but hasn’t done anything to hand him the job either.

RB – Sergiño Dest: 4 (4.5) – Dest’s poor performance against El Salvador was perhaps explainable by the fact he’s naturally a right-sided player shifted to the left to do a very specific job. Fast-forward to Sunday, Dest was on the right and he had another nightmare outing. He’s not a reliable enough to defender to play right back and he’s not dynamic or creative enough to play as a winger. Is there a place for him going forward? After starting the first two games during this window, Dest was unlikely to start Wednesday’s game in Honduras, making the injury less of a worry for the USMNT (for now).

Looking like a more-hyped version of last decade’s DeAndre Yedlin, where his defensive naivete is glaring when his attacking game is foiled. Still just 20 until November, but that promise doesn’t do anything right now vis a vis 2022 in Qatar.

CB – Miles Robinson: 6.5 – The vibes are extremely good with Robinson deployed as the right-sided center back, whether alongside Tim Ream (game 1) or John Brooks (game 2). He’s a classically tough American defender with a nose for the ball and good emergency defending instincts. As of this moment, the starting job is his to lose.

CB – John Brooks: 6 (5.5) – The defensive veteran looked like a fish out of water against the speed of Canada’s counter-attacks, but his distribution and long-range passing proved key in setting up the opening goal. Tyler Adams roaming midfield in front helps to protect Brooks’ lack of mobility, but free attacking full backs like Dest and Antonee Robinson do him no favors to his left.

A mixed bag from the undisputed best center back in the pool. Had some dicey moments and at times looked a step slow, not usually something you’ll note from the long-striding Wolfsburg back. Hit some wonderful passes, though, and is a force of intimidation for the U.S.

LB – Antonee Robinson: 7 (8) – This is the best left back in the USMNT player pool, Gregg. Play him there, every game if you have to. Defensively responsible and dangerous going forward (as evidenced on the goal).

There were 1-2 hiccups in his own end but also a lot of good tackles and that’s before we mention his terrific night going forward. Had an assist and might’ve had a goal. Has earned left back status for now.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1434690158847221761&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fsoccer.nbcsports.com%2F2021%2F09%2F05%2Fusmnt-canada-2022-world-cup-qualifying-analysis-player-ratings%2F&sessionId=e3ddd02cc34984287d9bebb554c530fb58a0de82&theme=light&widgetsVersion=1890d59c%3A1627936082797&width=500px DM – Tyler Adams: 6.5 (6.5) – Defensively excellent and in the right spot at the right time to snuff out a number of Canadian counter-attacks. As the USMNT attempts to work out the chance-creation issues at the other end of the field, Adams’ presence in consecutive games was like a warm blanket tucked under the chin on a crisp autumn night.

This could be as high as an 8 or even 8.5 if not for his silly and selfish foul on Mark-Anthony Kaye that deprived us from knowing whether Brenden Aaronson’s pinpoint pass might’ve set up an Antonee Robinson winner.

CM – Kellyn Acosta: 6.5 – Another request for Gregg: Please only play Acosta as an 8 in the future. His range of passing is far better than most people seem to realize. Given the lack of dynamism and chance creation from the other central midfielders this week, Acosta should start again in Honduras.

CM – Sebastian Lletget: 6 – Strong early as he teed Christian Pulisic up to hit the post midway through the first half, but faded as the game became more and more open.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from El Salvador 0-0 USMNT | Player ratings ]

RW – Brenden Aaronson: 7 – Scored the USMNT’s first goal of 2022 World Cup qualifying — a simple tap-in from Robinson’s cross — and tracked back to do a lot of defensive work, but couldn’t connect the midfield to the forward line quite like the USMNT needed.

LW – Christian Pulisic: 6 (7) – A mostly anonymous night for Pulisic in his first game back after testing positive for COVID-19. He played all 90 minutes, which could cast a bit of doubt over his availability for Wednesday’s game (no chance he plays the full-90 again). Nothing clicked for the attack as a whole on Sunday, and that fact was even more true for Pulisic specifically.

Did everything you want to see but score, demanding attention from Canada and delivering a number of won free kicks. Corner kick service was decent, too. Imagine him with better striker play.

CF – Jordan Pefok: 6 – Struggled to be more involved as he constantly battled three center backs for Canada, but his hold-up play was crucial in the build-up to Aaronson’s goal. Pefok brings a size and nastiness to the center forward position that no one else in the player pool possesses.

9/3/21 US Ties El Salvador 0-0 plays Canada 8 pm Sun FS1, Indy 11 at home vs Atl United 2, Argentina vs Brazil + other huge WCQ Games Scheduled

 US Ties El Salvador 0-0

Well I said before the game that 1 point and a draw at El Salvador against a tough team in a really tough environment against a coach that knows the US so well would be fine.  So why did last night’s 0-0 tie feel so bad. Man today on the call in shows – everyone is destroying us.  Hey this is the 1st game of Qualifying on the road – in a very difficult place to win.  Overall I thought the US played fine – defensively even though I questioned the line-up Coach Berhalter put out there – I thought they held their own.  Matt Turner was fantastic in goal as always though he wasn’t really tested all that much.  It was 50 / 50 possession – which on the road is tough to do.  But lets not kid ourselves  – the difference in level of talent is pretty large – though the US talent is young – we have 12 players playing on Champions League Level teams – El Salvador has none.  El Salvador started a USL player tonight for heaven’s sake.  And while their coach Hugo Perez – a mainstay as a US as an assistant coach – had an excellent plan and definitely seemed quite prepared to play us – at the end of the day we have much better players who should have won this game.  It was great to see local boy done good defender Eriq Zavaleta of Westfield and IU almost score for El Salvador on a header in the 1st half.  I am hoping former ISA Futsal Director Carlos Zaveleta (his dad) was in a attendance. 

The US outshot El Salvador and should have scored on a multitude of header opportunities but they just couldn’t find the net.  El Salvador also had chances but their shots all seemed to miss the target as well – though Turner was forced into a couple of nice saves.  Overall I thought the product in the final 3rd was missing.  What’s new for the US eh?  I thought surprise starter Conrad actually looked dangerous up top on the left – but was surprised to see Aaronson at midfield rather than left wing – Aaronson looked out of spot most of the night until pushed into the left wing late.  Reyna looked fine and had a great stretch midway thru the half when he flipped to the left side – but he just missed on a few balls. Sargent was active as the #9 – but again couldn’t find the net for the 3rd straight game as a starter.  Pefuk  was better up top when he came on for the final 20 minutes I thought – and he should have scored on a header.  I thought Adams looked good in the Dmid slot but boy did he have to cover for Dest all night long at left back – as Dest got destroyed at times.  I really think Dest has to be used on the right – and only when he has a really fast center d partner like Miles Robinson with him.  Robinson was very good at right center back and paired just fine with Tim Ream – though the aging Ream looked suspect at times.  Can’t wait to see Robinson and Brooks together in the middle vs Canada.  Canada now becomes must win – you must win your games at home !!  Canada will be on edge as they tied Honduras at home.  In fact everyone tied except Mexico who got a late goal to secure a 2-1 win over Jamaica.  Here’s the line-up I would come out with vs Canada – but Coach Berhalter will probably come out with 3 center backs or something – who knows. 

Pefok

Pulisic/Reyna

Lletget/McKinney

Adams

Robinson/Brooks/Robinson/Dest

Turner

US GAMES

Sunday 8 pm                                   USA vs CANADA               FS 1

Wed, Sept 8 – 10 pm                      Honduras vs USA             CBS Sports Network, Paramount+

So here’s how we look after the first game. 

 FIFA World Cup Qualifying – CONCACAF Standings

POSTEAMGPGDPTS
1Mexico1+13
2Honduras101
3Canada101
4Costa Rica101
5El Salvador101
6Panama101
7United States101
8Jamaica1-10

US Stats vs El Salvador

Sunday WCQ has multiple huge games

England vs Andorra somehow gets the noon ESPN2 slot – while the best games of the day the Swiss hosting Italy and Belgium vs the Czech Republic are both on ESPN+ Sunday at 2:45 pm.  3 pm has the best game of the Day as Brazil host Argentina on Fubo TV in a rematch of the COPA Final.  Of course the US host Canada at 8 pm on Fox Sports 1 right after Costa Rica hosts Mexico in a pivotal match on CBS Sports Network at 7 pm.  (See the full schedule below)

Indy 11 Home Sat Night at the Mike vs Atlanta United  7 pm TV 8

The Indy 11 fresh off a shutout at home by Jordan Farr are one a roll with 2 straight home victories to make the move up to 5th place over – they play Atlanta United 2 this Saturday night with 4th place on the line.  Specials this weekend include $4 Beers and an $11 Beer and Dog special. 

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USA

ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 23/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 7/0)

DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United; 3/0), John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 43/3), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 11/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 6/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 45/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 12/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 9/3), James Sands (New York City FC; 6/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 64/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 17/2)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 37/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 14/1), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 29/7), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 24/7), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 25/0)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg/AUT; 7/3), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille/FRA; 1/0), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys/SUI; 6/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 38/16), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 8/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 16/5),

Player Ratings – MLS.com
Berhalter unhappy with USMNT lack of ‘control’ in El Salvador draw

Player ratings: USMNT held in El Salvador, World Cup qualifying

3 Things We Learns vs El Salvador –
United States men’s national soccer team plays to scoreless draw vs. El Salvador in World Cup qualifying opener

USMNT’s 2022 World Cup Qualifier Squad Is Most Valuable Ever

 

A look back on a very busy transfer window for Americans. Who made the best moves?

Sonora, Reyna, Wright, & Fulham defenders highlight otherwise disappointing weekend for Yanks abroad

WORLD

EUFA WCQ Tables

England Rolls over Hungary

Sweden down Spain to gain upper hand in World Cup qualifying
Ronaldo’s record goal reminds us: No one does drama like Portugal’s captain
How Ronaldo broke goal record, plus EVERY scoring record he holds
  Chris Wrigh

Hollabd Scores to tie Netherlands 1-1

Canada player ratings: Richie Laryea, Alistair Johnston impress in WCQ draw vs. Honduras

Three takeaways from Canada’s World Cup Qualifying draw with Honduras

Grading every Premier League club’s summer transfer window\

Glory, glory! Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning return to Manchester United is a done deal
Ronaldo to wear Man Utd’s No.7 shirt

Indy 11

·      PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN VS. ATLANTA UNITED 2

·      PETER-LEE VASSELL TO REPRESENT JAMAICAN NATIONAL TEAM IN WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

·      INDY ELEVEN AND FORWARD JORDAN HAMILTON TERMINATE CONTRACT

·      USL CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: INDY ELEVEN 2 : 0 REAL MONARCHS SLC

 GAMES OF THE WEEK (World Cup Qualifying)

Saturday, sept 4

12 noon          Latvia vs Norway ESPN+ 

12 noon          Ireland vs Azerbajan ESPN+ 

2:45 pm         Ukraine vs France ESPN+

2:45 pm         Netherlands vs Montegro  ESPN+

7 pm              Indy 11 vs Atlanta United TV 8, ESPN+ @ the Mike

7:30 pm         Orlando City vs Columbus  ESPN+

Sunday, sept5

12 noon          England vs Andorra ESPN2 

12 noon          Iceland vs North Madcedonia ESPN+ 

2:45 pm         Swiss vs Italy ESPN+

2:45 pm         Belgium vs Czech Republic ESPN+

3 pm               Brazil vs Argentina Fubo

5 pm               Equador vs Chile Fubo

7 pm               Costa Rica vs MEXICO CBS Sports Network, Universo

8 pm              USA vs CANADA   FS 1

Tuesday, Sept 7

12 noon          Latvia vs Norway ESPN+ 

12 noon          Ireland vs Azerbajan ESPN+ 

2:45 pm         France vs Finland ESPN+

2:45 pm         Netherlands vs Turkey  ESPN+

2:45 pm         Austria vs Scotland ESPN+

Wed, Sept 8

2:45 pm         England vs Poland ESPN+ 

2:45 pm         Iceland vs Germany ESPN+ 

2:45 pm         Italy vs Lithuania EPSN+

7 pm               Costa Rica vs Jamaica Paramount+

7:30 pm         Canada vs El  Salvador Paramount +

9 pm               Panama vs Mexico Paramount+

10 pm            Honduras vs USA CBS Sports Network, Paramount+

Thurs, Sept 9

7 pm               Colombia vs Chile Fubo

7:30 pm         Argentina vs Bolivia Fubo

8:30 pm         Brazil vs Peru  Fubo

5 pm               Equador vs Chile Fubo

Fri, Sept 10

3 pm               Lorient vs Lille – France beIN Sport

7:30 pm         Atlanta United vs Orlando City FS1

10 pm             Tiajuana vs Santos Laguna FS2

USWNT vs. Paraguay (Cincy) Tix Are On Sale Now

Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Location: TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Time: 7:30 PM ET

Sale opens: Now

Deadline: First-come, first-served

 2022 World Cup Qualifying: USA 0-0 El Salvador – a disjointed performance and an indecisive result

Eh, it’s a point on the road  By Parker Cleveland@AekprrAcdeellnv  Sep 2, 2021, 9:13pm PDT  S & S

The USA entered the first World Cup qualifier since… you know, we all remember. It was wet and rainy and Bruce Arena was there and it wasn’t fun. Geoff Cameron was watching and looked all mad/sad about it. Not a good time. My main memory for that game was thinking that I had to write the What We Learned article and how pointless that was. Luckily, the USMNT got good at soccer in the last four years and hopefully we won’t be re-living that fiasco.Still, the team would need to go on the road in front of an unfriendly crowd and do what they could to overcome Alex Roldan. One thing was sure, anything less than 8 points in qualifying this round wouldn’t be acceptable.If there was any question about how the USMNT would approach the game, that was answered as soon as the lineup came out and Konrad de la Fuente started alongside Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in central midfield. That’s a decision that says, I’m not too concerned about responding to what El Salvador wants to do and am looking to dictate the game from Gregg Berhalter. Also, put some respect on Tim Ream’s name.Meanwhile, Hugo Perez sent a promising El Salvador side out in a 4-4-2 featuring Greg Vanney’s nephew and a roster whose most prominent players are in MLS or play in Holland. That said, Los cuzcatlecos were coming off of a respectable showing in the Gold Cup and the home town energy would surely provide a boost against the Stars and Stripes.

In what started as a tricky fixture for the USA, the team had a difficult time creating chances. That said, the team did effectively move the ball into the attacking third though the chances were lacking. Through the first 30 minutes, the best moments of the match were created by the camera man as it seemed like the production decisions were, in close? super wide? WHO CARES JUST CUT TO CAMERA 2.The game came to life at about the half hour mark as El Salvador began to grow more bold in their pressing and the US responded by pushing forward and finding seams in the El Salvador backline. A goalkeeping error by Matt Turner gave the team in blue a corner that created a shot that nearly floated into the USA goal. The Americans tried to do lots of flicks and fancy things but nothing really looked like it would threaten the El Salvador goal and the teams went into the half at 0-0.Given the struggles in the first half, the second began with the Stars and Stripes just basically doing what they did in the initial 45 but harder and a little faster. The result was more struggle, but this time harder and faster.A trio of subs came in for the USA as Antonee Robinson, Jordan Pefok, and Kellyn Acosta entered for Sergino Dest, Josh Sargent, and Konrad.One change that did seem effective was Gio Reyna and Brenden Aaronson interchanging more with Reyna playing more on the left where the USA was having most of its success. That nearly paid off in the 72nd minute when GR7 floated a cross that Weston McKennie got a head to it but failed to put his shot into the net. Still, Reyna was the best player on the field and as the game wore on he continued to be the main outlet for the team as any team moves were just not coming together.Two more subs came in as Cristian Roldan and Sebastian Lletget entered for Aaronson and Yedlin when the clock hit the 79th minute. While the new additions did provide a spark, the game still lacked the decisive moment and ended in a 0-0 draw.Not the best result, not the worst, neutral.

USMNT Opens World Cup Qualifying By Drawing El Salvador

AVI CREDITORThe U.S. men’s national team’s road to redemption, in the form of a 2022 World Cup berth, began with no goals and one point away from home.The U.S. had its chances but settled for a 0–0 draw vs. El Salvador Thursday night at Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador, where the first of 14 qualifying matches took place. Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta missed on close-range headers late, but save for set pieces, the U.S. defense was hardly troubled in securing the point, which puts the U.S. level with six other sides in the Concacaf table.Henry Martin’s late winner gave Mexico a 2–1 victory over Jamaica at a fan-less Estadio Azteca to put El Tri atop the table, but Canada-Honduras and Panama-Costa Rica also ended in draws on the opening night of the region’s qualifying tournament.After missing the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. is focused on getting back to the grand stage—even if this group is not dwelling on what transpired four years ago. Instead, a slew of young players led by a new coach are looking to ride the momentum of having won two Concacaf trophies this summer and climbing to 10th in FIFA’s world ranking. To keep that momentum going, they had to do so without two presumed starters, with Christian Pulisic (COVID-19, fitness) and Zack Steffen (back spasms) both unavailable for the match. They’ve remained in Nashville to train before the rest of the U.S. joins them Friday ahead of Sunday’s qualifier vs. Canada at Nissan Stadium. This three-match window concludes with a Sept. 8 trip to San Pedro Sula to face Honduras.Their absences weren’t the only notables in Gregg Berhalter’s starting lineup. Center back rock John Brooks was left on the bench, with veteran Tim Ream partnering with Gold Cup hero Miles Robinson in front of Matt Turner, who earned the start with Steffen out hurt. Brenden Aaronson and Konrad de la Fuente entered the XI as well, with Pulisic out and Sebastian Lletget among the substitutes. After a raucous set of national anthems, with a crowd appearing to be significantly greater than the 29,000 cap that was supposed to be set, and with nearby fireworks blaring for the opening few minutes, the U.S. had the first early chance. DeAndre Yedlin surged forward and found Gio Reyna, who broke into the box but fired into the side netting in the third minute.A couple of minutes later, Aaronson nearly benefited from a fortuitous deflection, with the ball looping just over the El Salvador crossbar.Three minutes later, the U.S. had a chance that was eerily reminiscent of the goal that won the Gold Cup. After Konrad earned a free kick, Reyna curled in a ball to the center of the box, where Robinson headed over the bar. It was Robinson who headed home Acosta’s service on a nearly identical play to clinch the extra-time win over Mexico on Aug. 1.El Salvador provided a scare of its own in the 16th minute. Off a corner kick, center back Ronald Rodriguez was the first to meet the service and headed just wide of the mark to keep things scoreless.El Salvador was gifted another set piece in the 33rd minute and nearly cashed in on it. With Turner taking his eye off the ball on his own endline and having it go out for a corner, Alex Roldan—whose brother and fellow Seattle Sounder, Cristian, began the night on the U.S. bench—shook Yedlin and deftly lifted a right-footed chance to the far post, not missing by much.With the first half coming to a close, the U.S. had another chance to open the scoring. Konrad did well to create space for a cross from the left, picking out McKennie in the El Salvador box. The Juventus midfielder headed down for Josh Sargent, whose bouncing volley from the edge of the box went wide right of the post.Set pieces continued to be El Salvador’s best shot at breaking through, and Eriq Zavaleta, Toronto FC’s Indiana-born center back, forced Turner into a diving save with his header off a corner kick, with the U.S. goalkeeper smothering it as he went down and to his left in the 57th minute.Berhalter went to his bench for the first time in the 64th minute, making a triple substitution (teams are allotted up to five subs, across three stoppages) by bringing Acosta, Antonee Robinson and Jordan Pefok in and taking Konrad, Sargent and Sergiño Dest off.The U.S. looked livelier after the changes, and in the 72nd minute nearly went ahead. Reyna followed his own blocked shot and carried down the left-hand side before lofting in a cross for McKennie, who timed his run well. He couldn’t get his header from the center of the box down accurately, though, and it trickled wide of the post.McKennie then played provider four minutes later on another close call. Pefok did well to keep possession and slip a pass through the Salvadoran defense, with McKennie running onto it and surging down the right-hand side. His cross picked out Acosta, whose leaping header was kept out by goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez.Neither side threatened in the waning minutes, though, with both settling for the point that puts them in the middle of the pack with a long, albeit compressed, qualifying road ahead. 

Three things we learned from El Salvador 0-0 USMNT

Nicholas Mendola NBC Sports

They weren’t good.A United States men’s national team missing its best player and resting its best defender was not a good watch in a 0-0 draw with El Salvador in San Salvador to kick off its CONCACAF World Cup qualifying run.Christian Pulisic missed the match as he seemingly rebuilds fitness following a COVID-19 positive test-induced layoff, and the Yanks were anything but clinical in front of goal.Heck, they barely got there.Next up is Canada in Nashville on Sunday before a trip to Honduras.

Three things we learned from El Salvador – USMNT

1. Welcome back to nerves, second-guessing, excitement: Look, we loved the victories at the Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Nations League — especially the latter — but is there anything like the anticipation, anxiety, and excitement that comes from World Cup qualification, especially an away match in front of a packed house? Unfortunately, the U.S. did very little to ease that anxiety with most of its starting lineup ineffective, but it sure was nice to open a fresh run of qualifiers.

 Being talented enough to get selected to start in a side’s first World Cup qualifier means there are gifts to be opened on the pitch, but also long periods of adjustment. It’s understandable that Konrad de la Fuente, Josh Sargent, and Brenden Aaronson would start, especially with Christian Pulisic injured, but we were left waiting for those gifts to arrive in San Salvador for most of the first hour. The kids needed further blooding but there’s a veteran front three out there (Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes, and Sebastian Lletget in a full-health world) who delivers a halftime lead, perhaps by two.

3. Tyler Adams is very good: The youngest player to captain the United States men in a World Cup qualifier looked the part, almost always in the right position and barely putting a foot wrong when the ball found its way to him. Unfortunately, a midfield metronome isn’t a finisher.

Man of the Match: Tyler Adams

El Salvador – USMNT recap

The U.S. might’ve had it 1-0 with an unintentional chance when a low clearance bounded off Brenden Aaronson and over the bar.

Miles Robinson’s turn to put it over the frame when Gio Reyna swept a gorgeous free kick over the pack.

El Salvador forward Jairo Henriquez nodded just over the goal on one of their three corners in the first 15 minutes, but Sergino Dest bounced a shot to the home goalkeeper moments later.

The U.S. appeared anxious with the final ball in its best moments of the first half, Josh Sargent and Weston McKennie producing some magic but failing to spot a shooting opportunity and an incisive pass to Aaronson.

Alex Roldan came close to making it 1-0 for El Salvador off a corner conceded by a falling Matt Turner, as the home team’s best work came off set pieces and aggressive pressing in the U.S. half.

The best U.S. chance saw Konrad de la Fuente reclaim his blocked cross and sweep another one over the pack. McKennie nodded it to Sargent, but the Norwich City man’s side volley bid was wide of the wrong post.

De la Fuente led a terrific run early in the second half but laid off for Sargent to have a blocked shot rather than feed an open Reyna on his right. Matt Turner had

#INDvATL Gameday Preview  

Indy Eleven vs. Atlanta United 2

Saturday, September 4, 2021 – 7:00 P.M. ET  

IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.

Local/National TV: WISH-TV 8

Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)  

>Radio (Spanish): Exitos 94.3 FM / exitos943.com

In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers   

LIndy Eleven: 7W-8L-5D (-5 GD), 26 pts.; 5th in Central Division

Atlanta United 2: 6W-9L-7D (0 GD); 6th in Central Division

With all four inter-divisional games ticked off the schedule, it’s nothing but Central Division showdowns moving forward for Indy Eleven starting Saturday against Atlanta. Three weekends ago, ATL UTD 2 handed Indiana’s Team one of the worst defeats in the club’s USL Championship era, but there’s more important matters at hand than petty payback – as the calendar flips to a seminal seven-game September for the Boys in Blue, it’s now all about playoff positioning …

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… and you can see why, as Indy Eleven remains tucked squarely in the middle of the Central table, currently just on the wrong side of the playoff line (with the caveat of having two games in hand on fourth place OKC). The Eleven begin the month with three of four at home before finishing out with a three-game road trip, making those contests at “The Mike” against Atlanta (Saturday), Sporting KC II (Sept. 11) and LouCity FC (Sept. 18) not “must-wins” … but, to paraphrase that famed sage Meatloaf, two outta three here wouldn’t be bad – and may just prove necessary to keep pace.The good news on that front? Indy has seemingly exorcised its demons at Carroll Stadium, collecting wins there the last two times out. The includes last Saturday, when forward Manuel Arteaga bagged his team-leading fifth & sixth goals of the season in a 2-0 win over Real Monarchs SLC. With Thursday’s mutually-agreed upon departure of fellow forward Jordan Hamilton, Arteaga is now the unquestioned talisman up top heading into the stretch drive. With that now abundantly clear, you can bet Interim Head Coach Max Rogers will further solidify the team’s high-pressure tactics that are heavily influenced by the Venezuelan’s endless energy at the point of the three-man frontline.Perhaps more important the last time out was the defensive effort, which included goalkeeper Jordan Farr making four saves en route to collecting the team’s first home clean sheet in eight outings dating back to a 2-0 win over SKC II on May 22. Center back A.J. Cochran spoke after the game about the team refocusing its efforts on securing shutouts at home and just making Carroll Stadium a tougher place to play for the opposition in general. Mission accomplished the last two games, but those were also against two of the weaker attacks in the league – it will have to emerge as an even larger emphasis against an Atlanta side whose 36 goals ranks fourth most across the entire Championship.Indy’s attack will be down another option temporarily after Peter-Lee Vassell reported to the Jamaican National Team early this week ahead of the Reggae Boyz’ trio of World Cup Qualifiers; he’ll miss the squad’s next two contests and should be available for selection next Saturday against SKC. Vassell’s presence should be offset by the continued return of winger Carl Haworth, whose 86th minute cameo against Real Monarchs marked the Canadian’s 2021 debut after recovering from a preseason leg injury.And make no mistake, ATL UTD 2 will look to “run and gun” its way to success on Saturday – and “2” looks to be their magic number. Atlanta has gone undefeated in the 10 games in which it’s scored at least twice (4W-0L-6D) but has registered a rough 2W-9L-1D record when scoring once or not at all. As impressive as Atlanta’s 36 goals scored have been, the same amount of concessions (fifth most in the Championship) have made an arguably bigger mark on their season, with the Georgia side sitting three games on the wrong side of the .500 mark.Three gaudy wins over FC Tulsa (5-0), Indy (6-2) and SKC (4-1) – the last two of which have come in recent weeks – have done wonders for Atlanta’s goal differential, and that could prove important if the standings remain as tight as they’ve been. However, heavy losses the last two weekends at Pittsburgh (1-4 L) and Tulsa (1-3 L) have tipped the “GD” scales back to even and moved Atlanta’s road record to 1W-7L-3D on the season, a trend that Indiana’s Team will look to continue Saturday as it tries to make “The Mike” a true fortress for the stretch drive.

 SERIES HISTORY VS. ATLANTA UNITED 2

USL Championship regular season: 2W-2L-2D (8 GF/10 GA)

USL Championship at home: 2W-0L-0D (3 GF/0 GA)

Deuces are wild for Indy Eleven & Atlanta United 2, with each holding a 2W-2L-2D record in their series heading into Saturday night’s clash at Carroll Stadium. Both meetings earlier this season were contested at Fifth Third Bank Field in suburban Keenesaw, Ga., where the teams dueled to a 1-1 draw on July 7 before ATL dominated from the jump in a 6-2 win on August 8. This year’s series will end back at “The Mike” on October 2.The only two previous matchups in the Circle City yielded wins for the Boys in Blue at Lucas Oil Stadium, captain Matt Watson notching an early game-winner in a 2-0 victory on June 9, 2018, followed by Alioune Diakhate’s 84th minute goal – his first and only with the Eleven – marking all the scoring in a 1-0 triumph on June 22, 2019.

 IND PLAYER TO WATCH: MF GERSHON KOFFIE

If the only thing you noticed about Koffie during his full 90 performance last Saturday were his back-to-back chances from the top of the 18 in second half stoppage time, we’re gonna take you to task a little bit. The Ghanaian was perhaps the most active player on the pitch, covering more ground than any of the Boys in Blue, completing 49 of his 57 passes (both second highest on the squad) on the evening – more than half of which (26) came in the opposing half of the field – while also winning three tackles, two interceptions, a team-high nine possessions gained, and four of his seven duels.Koffie’s active night played a big part in helping Indy Eleven own a 31%-22% advantage when it came to time spent in the final third. And during the other 47% when the ball was in the middle third? The above stats show just a glimpse of why Koffie essentially owned “Route 1” between the penalty boxes. To go along with that grit, some class as well … go back and watch his “hockey assist” on the Indy opener, his ball from midfield springing Nick Moon down the right flank to set up Arteaga’s eventual game-winner.That two-way play is exactly what Koffie was brought to Indy to deliver, and Saturday evening provided perhaps the best display of what the recently-turned 30-year-old can do in that deep-lying midfield role. An injury kept Koffie home from Indy’s nightmare trip to Atlanta last month, so it will be interesting to see how his presence will affect the rhythm of both sides’ play through the center of the pitch this time around. 

ATL PLAYER TO WATCH: MF AJANI FORTUNE

One player who might see a lot of Koffie in that middle of the park Saturday is Fortune, the 18-year-old Atlanta United Academy product who has made 15 appearances for ATL UTD 2 this season but was only officially signed by the USL Championship outfit last week. In recent weeks Fortune has been called to serve at various spots on Atlanta’s three-man midfield line … but no matter where he has lined up, his heat maps show a tendency to drift to the center channel – and if that is the case, you can be sure he’ll meet acquaintances with Koffie plenty.But therein lies the issue for Atlanta, which has seen Robbie Mertz take a more attacking presence from his spot on the midfield three. Should that be the case on Saturday, that will leave Fortune and Christian Wiley the tall task of going toe-to-toe with Moon & Co. down the right flank, especially on quick counter opportunities. Like much of ATL’s roster, while the young Fortune may favor to boldly attack, he’ll have to balance that want with the need to stay back and defend with numbers, especially if Indy can continue its recent trend of holding more of its possession in its attacking third.