8/16/19  CFC Night at CHS Boys Game Thur night 7 pm, Germany & Spanish Seasons Start, EPL Man City vs Spurs Sat 12:30 NBC, Pulisic’s Chelsea vs Leicester Sun 11:30, Ladies ICC Sun, Indy 11 Home Sun 6 pm

Two more leagues kick off their season’s this weekend as the Bundesliga with plenty of American’s vying for playing time like Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig and starts and Weston McKinney at Schalke, John Brooks at Wolfsburg, GK Zach Steffen at Dusseldorf, and Josh Sargent at Werder Bremen.  La Liga kicked off Friday with a stunning loss by Barcelona at Athletic Club (with an injured Messi on the bench). Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will try to take advantage on the Catalan’s misstep checkout the season preview here.  The EPL got off to a good start last week –as most of the favorites won and Man United dominated Chelsea at Old Trafford. American Christian Pulisic struggled in his sub appearance in the opener at Old Trafford losing 4-0.  But in the EUFA Supercup vs Liverpool Wed – the 20 year starred as he started and had a beautiful assist for the opening goal – and a questionable offsides on his own goal just minutes later.  You could argue he was the best player on the field in the first half as Chelsea took the 1-0 lead into the half.  Of course Liverpool battled back – Pulisic came off in the 70th minute and the Reds won the game in PKs after 120 minutes.  But the 1-1 loss was certainly a huge turnaround performance for the Blues and should set them and Pulisic up for the home opener vs Leicester City on Sunday at 11:30 am on NBCSN.  The highlight game of the weekend features a top 4 showdown as Tottenham is hosting 2-time Champs Manchester City Saturday at 12:30 on NBC.  That’s after Liverpool host Norwich at 10 am on NBCSN.  Of course I will be keeping an eye on American players across the world as the seasons oversea’s get started.

Women’s Soccer ICC Sunday Night on ESPN2 & News

The Ladies Game takes Center Stage again Sunday afternoon as the Women’s ICC featuring 4 of the top Club Ladies Teams in the World will be on ESPNnews and ESPN2.  At 5 pm Man City faces Atletico Madrid on ESPNNews.  In the final Lyon will face the North Carolina Courage in a Winner take all Final at 7:30 pm on ESPN2.  Lyon – the European champions brings the who who of World Cup teams – Wendie Renard, Amandine Henry, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Ada Hegerberg. Of the course NC counters with US stars Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, Lynn Williams and Jessie McDonald.

MLS

See what happens when the best teams play?  Finally Atlanta United (the defending MLS Cup Champs) got to represent the US in a match against LigaMX Champion Club America to  win this week’s Campeones Cup. The Five Stripes (Atlanta) outlasted Club America to win the one-game annual clash between the league champions of MLS and Liga MX that debuted last year. They’ll host Minnesota United for the Open Cup final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium later this month, and are odds-on picks to secure a high seed in the East side of the MLS postseason bracket come fall – could the be in line for a Treble?  Amazing what this now 3 year old team has done in MLS – they average over 55K per game in the city that has embraced soccer and MLS like few others.  Sat night we get a Revitalized LA Galaxy and Ibra hosting Seattle at 10 pm on ESPN2 with 4th place in a tight playoff race on the line!!  Sunday we get Atlanta United traveling to Portland in a rematch of last Season’s MLS Cup Final – at 10 pm on Fox Sports 1.  The playoff picture continues to take shape in this week 24 and of course the news that St Louis will be awarded the next MLS Francise L

Indy 11 @ Home Sun 6 pm

The Indy traveled to Detroit for a mid-week friendly and took home a 1-0 victory as Carmel FC Goalkeeper Coach Jordan Farr notched his 3rd shut-out of the season. (Here’s a great save). He’s given up just 1 goal across 4 starts and two sub appearances.  The Boys in Blue (12W-4L-4D, 40 pts., 3rd in Eastern Conference) will return to USL Championship action with a pair of Sunday evening affairs the next two weekends against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 18 (Faith & Family Night) and Charlotte Independence on Aug. 25 (“Red Out” Summer Celebration). Tickets for those 6:00 p.m. contests at Lucas Oil Stadium remain available for as little as $15 and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.  The games will be on MyIndyTV and ESPN+ as well.

Carmel FC Night at Carmel High School Game Thurs 7 pm

Carmel FC night is this Thursday Night, 8/22 at Murray Stadium at Carmel High School as the CHS Boys battle Noblesville.   Carmel FC players (girls and boys) wearing their blue jersey’s will get Free Admission for the game.  Kickoff is 7 pm at Murray.  If you are a Carmel FC coach looking to have your team be a ballboy for the boy’s season please reach out to club Prez Jeremy.slivinski@cdccarmelfc.com.  If you would like to have your team be Ballgirls for the Defending State Champion Girls team please reach out to Tom Baker at Tom@embarkto.com.

CFC Goalkeeping Training with myself and Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr will be Monday at Badger 6-8 pm and Wednesday 8/21 (not Thursday this week) at Shelbourne 6-8 pm.

Man U exposes Chelsea’s Defensive Flaws – Jon Wilson SI

Pulisic must impress quickly at Chelsea to shutdown unfair Hazard Comparisons Mark Odgen EPSNFC

Soccer-Bullet point previews of Premier League matches

UEL Roundup: Wolves thrash Pyunik, and more

It was another stellar performance from Wolves to advance in the Europa League.

·         Klopp applauds performance of referee Stephanie Frappart and UEFA Super Cup officials

A team of female officials took charge of the UEFA Super Cup for the first time on Wednesday and Jurgen Klopp was impressed.

Liverpool Super Cup hero Adrian injured by fan who crashed team’s on-field celebration  

USA

DaMarcus Beasley has some fixes for American soccer

How US Star Pulisic did in First Game – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Pulisic Family Adjusts to being at Chelsea –Grant Wahl SI

Should Nagbe be back in the USMNT fold?

Markgraf hired as USWNT GM; Stewart promoted

U.S. planning bid to host 2027 Women’s WC

American Defender Chris Gloster Signs With PSV Eindhoven

 U.S. U20 star Mendez makes jump to PSV rival Ajax
U.S. youngster Araujo could make switch to Mexico

U20 Star Soto being approached by Chile

NWSL Record Crowd of 25K Sees Portland beat NC 2-1 on ESPNNews

 

WORLD

Germany Bundesliga Season Preview

LA Liga – Spain – Season Preview

Transfer grades: Rating every major signing from Europe

UEFA postpones Champions League talks as clubs, leagues row

 

MLS

Week 24 Questions

What 2 Watch 4

Can Atlanta United win a treble this year?

Larentowicz: Campeones Cup was a “spectacle”

Warshaw: ATL bring the swagger to Campeones Cup

Breaking down ATL’s Campeones Cup win  Video

Inter Miami FC: How the franchise is shaping up

Zlatan, Galaxy get back in the winning groove

TFC, Impact through to CanChamp final

St Louis to be awarded next MLS Francise

 

Indy 11

Preview of Sunday St Louis Matchup

Indy 11 beats Detriot FC with Farr in the Net

Indy 11 Signs pair of South American Strikers

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Sat 9 am Soccer Talk with Greg Rakestraw on 1070 the Fan & 107.5 FM

OC teen becomes youngest male to sign professional soccer contract in US

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Aug 16

2:30 pm FS2                            Bayern Munich vs Hertha German Bundesliga Starts

3 pm beIN Sport                     Atheltic Club vs Barcelona (La Liga Starts)

Sat, Aug 17

7:30 am NBCSN                                    Arsenal vs Burnley

9:30 am FS1                                            Dortmund vs Ausburg

9:30 am FS2                                            Werder Bremen (Sargeant) vs Dusseldorf

10 am CNBC                                           Aston villa vs Bournmouth

10 am NBCSN                                        Southampton vs Liverpool

11 am bein Sport                               Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid

12:30 pm NBC                                      Man City vs Tottenham

12:30 pm FS1                                        MGladbach (Johnson) vs Schalke (McKinney)

7;30 pm ESPN+                                    Cincy vs NYCFC

10 pm ESPN2                                         LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders

Sun, Aug 18

9 am NBCSN                                           Shelfield vs Crystal Palace

11:30 am NBCSN                                 Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City

12 noon FS1                                           Union Berlin vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

1 pm ESPN News                                 Skye Blue (NY) vs Reign NWSL

4 pm beIN sport                                  Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

5 pm ESPN News                                 Women’s Man City vs Athletico Madrid – ICC 3rd place Game

6 pm  My Indy TV                Indy 11 vs St Louis

7:30 pm ESPN News                                                 Women’s ICC North Carolina vs Lyon – Champ Game

10 pm FS1                                                                        Portland vs Atlanta United  

Mon, Aug 19

3 pm NBCSN                                           Wolverhampton vs Man United

Thur, Aug 22

3 pm NBCSN                                           Sporting KC vs Min United

Fri, Aug 23

2:30 pm FS 2                                         Koln vs Dortmund

3 pm NBCSN                                           Aston Villa vs Everton

8 pm ESPN                                               Orlando vs Atlanta United

10 pm ESPN                                            Portland vs Seattle Cascadia Cup  

Sat, Aug 24

7:30 am NBCSN                                    Norwich vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

9:30 am FS1                                            Bayer Leverkusen vs Dusseldorf (Stefan)

10 am NBCSN                                        Man United vs Crystal Palace

12 noon ESPN+                                     Parma vs Juventus

1 pm bein Sport                                  Real Madrid vs Real Valladolid

12:30 pm NBC                                      Liverpool vs Arsenal  

12:30 pm FS1                                        Bayern Munich vs Schalke (McKinney)

7;30 pm ESPN2                                    NY Red Bulls vs NYCFC

10 pm ESPN+                                         Toronto vs Montreal  

Sun, Aug 25

9 am NBCSN                                           Bournmouth vs Man City

9:30 m FS1                                              RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Frankfurt (Chandler)

11:30 am NBCSN                                 Spurs vs New Castle (Yedlin)  

12 noon FS1                                           Hertha Berlin vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

1 pm ESPN News                                 Skye Blue (NY) vs Reign NWSL

3 pm beIN sport                                  Barcelona vs Real Betis

3 pm ESPN News                                 Portland Thorns vs Chicago Red Stars  

6 pm  My Indy TV                Indy 11 vs Charolotte

6 pm FS1                                                   Cincy vs Columbus (Ohio Derby)  

8 pm FS1                                                  Dallas (Hedges) vs Houston

10 pm FS1                                                                        LA FC vs LA Galaxy – El Trafico  

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

‘Pulisic has it all to become as good as Hazard’ – Ex-Chelsea striker thrilled with U.S. star’s Super Cup showing

Chris Burton04:53 8/15/19

 

The United States international impressed again during a showpiece event in Turkey and is being backed to fill a creative void for the BluesChristian Pulisic has an air of Arjen Robben about him, says Tony Cascarino, with the American being tipped to fill the void created by Eden Hazard’s departure from Chelsea.The United States international playmaker has linked up with the Blues in a £58 million ($70m) deal.Big things are expected of him, with the 20-year-old boasting more top level experience than most players of his age.Added pressure has been placed on his shoulders following Hazard’s summer switch to Real Madrid, with Chelsea seeking a creative spark in the final third.

Pulisic’s early efforts bode well, with the youngster earning plenty of plaudits, and he is considered to boast the potential which will allow him to fill some big boots in west London.Former Blues striker Cascarino told The Times after seeing the U.S. star tee up Olivier Giroud for the opening goal in a UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool: “Christian Pulisic looks like he will be a very dangerous player for Chelsea.“Jurgen Klopp had been interested in the young forward and you could tell he was wary of his threat as he changed his defence to counter him, selecting Joe Gomez at right back instead of Trent Alexander-Arnold.“Gomez is a better defender than his team-mate but it still wasn’t enough to stop the United States international at times.“I don’t remember a young Eden Hazard being as quick and direct and there’s no reason Pulisic can’t develop into a player of Hazard’s standing.“Pulisic reminds me of Arjen Robben, you cannot stop him one-on-one because you don’t know which way he’s going to go and his pace is devastating.“He will be a massive asset for Frank Lampard this season.”Chelsea need Pulisic to make the impact expected of him in 2019-20.With the club operating under the constraints of a two-window transfer ban, new boss Frank Lampard has been unable to bolster his ranks.He is still looking for a first competitive victory as Blues manager, with the current campaign having opened with a humbling 4-0 reversal away at Manchester United and a penalty shootout setback against Liverpool in Istanbul.Lampard and Pulisic will take in a first Premier League game at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when they play host to Leicester.

Pulisic must impress quickly at Chelsea to shut down unfair Hazard comparisons

9:58 AM ET  Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Christian Pulisic will have woken up on Monday morning knowing precisely what awaits him in the Premier League with Chelsea. After a bruising welcome to English football on Sunday as a substitute during Chelsea’s 4-0 defeat at Manchester United, the only positive spin for the United States forward is that the magnitude of his challenge is now crystal clear.

During a 32-minute debut for his new team following his summer arrival from Borussia Dortmund — having spent the last six months of last season on loan at the German club after completing a £57.6m transfer in January — Pulisic was left floored by a Paul Pogba bodycheck and forced to chase lost causes as United raced away to complete their emphatic opening weekend victory.

While manager Frank Lampard made the worst start of any Chelsea boss for over 40 years, Pulisic was given a glimpse of how tough it could be for him to make his name at Stamford Bridge.The midfielder is expected to make his first competitive start for Chelsea against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday and it’s unlikely to get any easier against the European champions. He struggled to make any impact against United’s new right-back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, at Old Trafford, and he will face another daunting opponent when he comes up against Trent Alexander-Arnold in Turkey.At 20, Pulisic clearly needs time to adapt to his new surroundings, and under Lampard he will be given that space to acclimatise, develop and realise his undoubted potential. But Pulisic’s biggest problem is one that he cannot control, and that is never a good place to start.Rightly or wrongly, the young forward will be compared to Eden Hazardwhenever he takes to the field as a Chelsea player, which is unfortunate considering that the Belgian almost single-handedly carried the club to two Premier League titles and other major honours during his seven years at the club, prior to his £88.5m summer move to Real Madrid. This is a Chelsea team in clear transition, with a new manager, and already under pressure to deliver; for Pulisic, the challenge feels greater given the price tag and the departure of the Blues’ enigmatic Belgian.Hazard was Chelsea’s go-to-guy when they needed a moment of inspiration to get the team out of a hole. He didn’t always deliver, but more often than not, he came up with the goods when it mattered. In 245 Premier League games, he scored 85 goals and racked up 54 assists. He also struck fear into opposition defenders and, crucially, gave his teammates the belief that no cause was lost while he was on the pitch.When Chelsea sealed the deal for Pulisic in January they knew that, barring an unlikely change of heart, Hazard would be leaving for Madrid at the end of the season. With the club being hit by a two-window worldwide transfer ban by FIFA following an investigation into the recruitment of foreign players under the age of 18, Chelsea ensured that they had a replacement for Hazard before their star man headed off to Madrid.But Pulisic is not there to directly replace Hazard. This is a new Chelsea team going in a new direction rather than one trying to replicate what worked last season but with new players. Pulisic is a young forward with the potential to shine in the Premier League. He is not blessed with the robustness that enabled Hazard to cope with the physical challenge of English football and is still, quite clearly, a talent in the making rather than the finished article.f course the comparison to Hazard is inevitable; Chelsea sold a forward (Hazard) for big money and replaced him with another forward (Pulisic) for big money. However, Sunday’s brief cameo at Old Trafford highlighted their differences.Chelsea were 1-0 down when Pulisic replaced Ross Barkley on 58 minutes, with Lampard deploying the American on the wide left in an effort to put more pressure on United’s back four. Had it been Hazard entering the fray, United would almost certainly have assigned a player to shadow him closely, but they did not make any changes to deal with Pulisic because there was no need. The game quickly passed the U.S. forward by as United upped the tempo and took advantage of Chelsea’s absences — in particular, their best defender, Antonio Rudiger, was out injured — to score three more goals. Pulisic ended the game looking like a man who had just spent half an hour in a washing machine.Pulisic will feel more at home at Stamford Bridge, where the smaller pitch will enable him to be more effective but he needs to make an early impression on his own terms, for his own sake, to avoid being regarded as a shadow of the man he replaced.Hazard also had quiet games at Old Trafford, but he made amends soon enough by delivering a big contribution when it mattered. That is Pulisic’s challenge. In a team going through a difficult transition, the American must be allowed to become his own man and make his own impact at Chelsea.

EPL- W2W4: Eriksen must play in Spurs’ big clash vs. Man City

play

Peter Crouch addresses the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool in the English Premier League title race. (1:21)

2:56 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writer

The Premier League is back and this weekend has plenty of talking points. Nick Miller runs us through some of the biggest storylines.

Eriksen indispensable for Spurs

In the end a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa last Saturday was perfectly satisfactory for Tottenham, on the face of things: three points, their big new signing Tanguy Ndombele excelled and Harry Kane notched up a pair of goals. Job well done, congratulations lads.But there were things to concern Spurs fans, most specifically the curious omission of the apparently un-injured Jan Vertonghen from not just the starting XI but the match day squad, and the absence of Christian Eriksen. For the 64 minutes that the Dane remained on the bench against Villa, Spurs looked ponderous, occasionally devoid of ideas about how to unlock a stout defence, even leaden. As soon as he came on, that all changed and they scored three goals. In the short-term the situation is rectified easily enough — he will surely start in this weekend’s big game against Manchester City — but looking further down the line it might be concerning that Spurs are seemingly so reliant for creativity on a player who, unless something significant changes in the coming months, won’t be around this time next year.Of course, Giovani Lo Celso could turn out to be brilliant and Ndombele could pick up some of the slack and Dele Alli isn’t fit yet and so on and so forth, but it’s a little uncomfortable for Spurs that they apparently need Eriksen so much.

 

Who will play for Manchester City?

Pep Guardiola has a slightly different problem to Mauricio Pochettino. After their frankly fairly tedious, routine evisceration of West Ham last weekend, Guardiola essentially admitted that he had picked Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus for that game to ensure that Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero don’t get complacent. It was almost a pleasing bonus that both men played superbly, Mahrez in particular instrumental in most good things City did.So the question for Guardiola is: who will he select for a rather stiffer task than the Hammers on a Saturday lunchtime? Will he go for the tried and trusted Aguero and Silva, or the hungrier duo of Mahrez and Jesus? To a point, it doesn’t really matter that much, as City’s options are now of such high quality that it barely makes any difference who the individual bricks in the wall are, it only matters that they perform. And, going on the basis of last weekend (not forgetting Kevin De Bruyne, looking back to his best after last year’s injury issues), everyone is performing to an incredibly high standard.Whoever Guardiola picks: good luck, Tottenham.

 

Adrian’s remarkable story at Liverpool

It was barely a couple of weeks ago that Adrian didn’t have a club, released after spending a season on West Ham’s bench. He was training with Union Deportiva Pilas, a team from the outskirts of his hometown Seville, who play in the Spanish sixth tier. Then Simon Mignolet went to Club Brugge, Liverpool needed a goalkeeper quickly, Alisson did something nasty to his calf and suddenly Adrian is saving the winning penalty in the European Super Cup.

These are the odd, hazy days in a story like this, where strange things are possible, but soon enough Adrian will be deep in the weeds, and he’ll have to deal with the more prosaic business of keeping goal for Liverpool over the next few weeks. Assuming he can recover from an ankle injury sustained by one of his own fans, he should be doing that at Southampton this weekend, where his new team were given an awful fright last season as they chased the title. When the slightly surreal afterglow of Istanbul fades, it will be interesting to see how Adrian fits in with Liverpool’s defence for a longer period of time. Or perhaps we’ll be saying the same thing about Andy Lonergan next week.

Chelsea must turn good performances into a result

The broad consensus has been that Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have played well in both of their games so far this season, even if they won neither and lost the first handsomely. Little bits of luck in both the Premier League opener against Manchester United and the Super Cup loss against Liverpool would have made the difference to both results, and Lampard would be striding into this weekend’s game against Leicester with a big smile on his face.

He probably doesn’t need to worry too much. Chelsea have arguably performed above expectations so far, which seems odd given they lost one game 4-0 and threw away a lead in the other before going down on penalties, but given the broader circumstances, with an already inexperienced squad impacted by injuries, Lampard will probably be quite pleased.However, being pleased is all very well, but they do need to turn that into something tangible. If they don’t beat Leicester it probably won’t mean much in the general context of the season, but a win would serve as some sort of affirmation that they are doing something right, and thus give them something off which to propel into the rest of the season.

Will the promoted trio continue to be positive?

It’s a similar story with the three promoted clubs, after appearing in their first games back in the big boys’ league. Sheffield United grabbed a good point at Bournemouth, Aston Villa had Tottenham sweating and while Norwich’s defence was weak against Liverpool, the way they attacked at Anfield was at least encouraging for the season ahead.Which is great, and congratulations to them all, but now all three have games at home against teams that should not, to say the least, put the fear of God into them. Sheffield United have Crystal Palace, Villa host Bournemouth and Norwich welcome Newcastle.If there was one theme that ran through the three newbies’ opening day performances then it was positivity: to different extents, all three played their own games with conviction, and weren’t cowed by the prospect of facing established top flight teams. That will hopefully give them confidence that their approaches can work in the Premier League, and that they will continue in this vein.

Kante 8/10, Pulisic 7/10 but Chelsea suffer penalty shootout defeat in UEFA Super Cup

6:50 PM ETJames Capps

penalty-shootout defeat against Liverpool (2-2 after extra time) will be a tough one to take, but Frank Lampard can take plenty of encouragement from his side’s display in the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul. After Sunday’s 4-0 season-opening loss to Man United, this was a much-improved display in nearly every way.

Positives

N’Golo Kante‘s return to fitness gave the Chelsea midfield a huge injection of energy and quality, while Christian Pulisic showed he has the potential to at least fill some of the void left by Eden Hazard‘s departure. There were also encouraging signs defensively, with the Blues looking much more compact at the back.

Negatives

Despite an excellent performance, Chelsea came out of the game empty-handed, which could cause some heads to drop in the Blues camp. Tough tests lie ahead, and experienced heads will need to ensure there’s no Super Cup hangover in the weeks to come.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Lampard’s inclusion of Kante gave the Chelsea side a much-needed lift following a deflating defeat at Manchester United on Sunday, and the decision to start Pulisic over Mount was rewarded with an excellent full debut by the American.

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

GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6 — The Spaniard was unconvincing for Liverpool’s equalizer when he failed to get two hands on a loose ball to allow Sadio Mane an easy finish. Redeemed himself, however, with a stunning double-save to deny Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk late in the second half, but will be disappointed to have not saved a couple of Liverpool’s spot-kicks in the shootout.

DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 — The experienced full-back looked much more assured this time around than at Old Trafford at the weekend. Good work up the field from Pedro numbed the threat of Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson, allowing the Chelsea man to have a relatively untroubled evening.

DF Andreas Christensen, 6 — He was on hand to provide an important header away to deny Mane a tap-in at 0-0, and enjoyed a surprisingly comfortable first half before Liverpool began to get a grip on the game.

DF Kurt Zouma, 6 — Zouma has an air of clumsiness about him, but his no-nonsense approach to balls in behind meant he avoided any hairy moments in the penalty area. Could’ve won it at the death in normal time but headed over.

DF Emerson Palmieri, 7 — The Chelsea left-back will be surprised at how little he was tested by a Liverpool attack that was nowhere near its fluent best. Going forward the Brazilian offered plenty of support in attack and capped off a decent night with a successful penalty in the shootout.

MF N’Golo Kante, 8 — An outstanding display from the World Cup winner on his first start of the season. The Frenchman was at his energetic and destructive best early on to help absorb Liverpool pressure, and grew more and more influential as an attacking force as the game wore on.

MF Jorginho, 7 — The Italy international saw plenty of the ball throughout, and his quick distribution helped his side bypass a lacklustre Liverpool midfield press. He expertly slotted away his extra-time penalty with his signature run-up, before doing the same again in the shootout.

MF Mateo Kovacic, 6 — A quiet game in comparison to his midfield colleagues, and the Croatian will be hoping to have a much bigger impact on games as the season progresses.

FW Pedro, 7 — The 32-year-old’s movement and flexibility gave Liverpool a host of problems across the Reds’ back line, and he was at the heart of everything good about Chelsea’s attacking play.

FW Christian Pulisic, 7 — Chelsea’s new winger will be extremely pleased with his first start in a Blues shirt. Pulisic started brightly, culminating in a great driving run through the Liverpool half before providing the pass for Olivier Giroud to finish for the opening goal. After that, he continued to provide a threat before being subbed on 74 minutes.

FW Olivier Giroud, 7 — The centre-forward was feeding off scraps as Liverpool dominated the opening quarter of an hour, but soon began to enjoy much better service from his midfield, before clinically taking his chance from Pulisic for the opener.

Substitutes

FW Mason Mount, 6 — Always a willing runner, and carried the ball well as the game became stretched. Drew a superb one-handed save from Adrian in extra time, and fired a brilliant penalty into the top corner during the shootout.

FW Tammy Abraham, 5 — Won the Chelsea penalty in extra time, before somehow missing a glorious chance of his own at 2-2. The unfortunate one to miss the vital penalty in the shootout.

DF Fikayo Tomori, N/R — Didn’t catch the eye one way or another after replacing Christensen near the end of regulation.

MF Ross Barkley, N/R — Failed to make an impact as an extra-time sub for Kovacic, but confidently dispatched his penalty.

 

Gemany Preview -Why you should watch the Bundesliga: Is this the year Bayern finally slip and Dortmund win it all?

11:37 AM ETMusa OkwongaESPN.com writer

This year’s Bundesliga season is upon us and so it seems only right to identify some intriguing themes for the coming months. With Bayern Munich having just advanced to a seventh successive championship, the Bavarians look like the obvious favourites for this year’s title, but that doesn’t account for some interesting developments elsewhere in the division, and nor does it give the full story of German football’s top flight.Without further ado, here are seven intriguing storylines for you to watch (and a bonus one, just for fun).

1. Is this the year Bayern finally slip?

It is strange to refer as a club between eras when they’ve just won the league title and then added two World Cup winning full-backs to their squad, but that’s Bayern Munich for you.The champions have signed Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, from Atletico Madrid and VFB Stuttgart respectively, but questions remain. How will they cope with the loss of retired Arjen Robben, so often a reliable insurance policy off the bench in tight games? Will they be able to fend off a vengeful Dortmund?Niko Kovac will enter his second season in charge, which is in itself something of an achievement given the continual criticism he faced last year. However, he seems to enjoy the respect of his players even as they stumbled out of the UEFA Champions League. Bayern’s focus must be on regaining the continent’s top prize, but they must be very careful not to take their eye off matters at home. (The bookmakers currently have them as odds-on favourites to retain the title, with Dortmund a distant second in the betting.)

2. Dortmund’s unfinished business

To paraphrase the 1984 hit single by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three, “the youth, the youth, the youth is on fire.”Jadon Sancho scored one and set up the other to give Borussia Dortmund a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup — Germany’s traditional season opener — to confirm his status as one of the best forwards in Europe, young or otherwise. Sancho, 19, was a key force in Dortmund’s championship pursuit last season, a pursuit so sustained that it was easy to forget just how young they were: this season’s squad has an average age of 25, so you can expect more of the same. (Related: watch out this season for the occasional cameo from 16 year-old Gio Reyna, son of former U.S. international Claudio.)Last time around, all Dortmund lacked was experience in key moments and they’ve since added that in the form of returning club legend, centre-back Mats Hummels. Most notable is the arrival of Julian Brandt, fresh off an eye-catching spell at Bayer Leverkusen. Last season, Dortmund found the net only times fewer than Bayern; with Brandt on their staff, a prodigious provider of assists and a reasonable goalscorer, they have a good chance of outscoring last season’s champions.

3. The Nagelsmann era begins at RB Leipzig

The finest signing of the German transfer window was arguably not a footballer at all; it was the unveiling of Julian Nagelsmann, one of the most coveted coaches in Europe, at the helm of the RB Leipzig project.Though Leipzig have attracted much criticism for their big-spending approach and corporate overlords, something that’s still a novelty in the Bundesliga, their progress remains inexorable: since being founded in 2009, they’ve soared from the fifth division up to the top, finishing second, sixth and third in three seasons among the giants. They had the best defensive record in the German top flight last season, and Nagelsmann believes that they can be contenders for the title. For that to be the case, though, he must galvanise his team’s attack, which has seen no major additions this summer.RB Leipzig scored only 63 times in the league last season, 26 fewer than Bayern and 19 fewer than Dortmund. Nagelsmann will back himself to increase that output, given that his over-performing Hoffenheim team scored 70 times, the third-highest total last season. A front line featuring a mix of Timo WernerYussuf Poulsen and Emil Forsbergcertainly has goals in it; the only question is, how many.

4. The arrival of Union Berlin

Union Berlin are playing their first-ever season in the Bundesliga since the original club was founded in 1906, which naturally means an intensification of their rivalry with Hertha Berlin, a longstanding Bundesliga side across the city.  Uersfeld: Inside Union Berlin’s promotion party

It’s a clash of contrasts: Hertha in the west against Union in the east, the wealthy incumbent against the working-class upstart. Yet Union are keen not to let inexperience cost them and have already assembled a squad of players with sufficient accomplishments at the highest level. The most eye-catching name is by far Neven Subotic, formerly of Borussia Dortmund, who played over 250 games for them in one of the most successful periods in their history; but Christian Gentner, a veteran and former captain of VFB Stuttgart, will also add some Bundesliga nous.

5. The rise of Kai Havertz

When one of the greatest footballers in history says that you could one day follow in his footsteps, you pay attention.Lothar Matthäus, the first and only German to be named FIFA World Player of the year, recently stated that one day Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz could receive the same accolade. The German game loves a breakout star, reserving a special affection for its young players — just look at Sancho last season — and Havertz looks like being the next to find fame on the international stage.

At 20, the playmaker scored almost one goal every two games last season (20 in 42 matches), already has three caps for Germany and is the youngest ever to play 50 games in the Bundesliga.

6. Getting streetwise at Paderborn

How will newly promoted Paderborn adjust to the challenges of the Bundesliga? They have the division’s smallest stadium — with a capacity of 15,000, some 7,000 fewer than Union Berlin — and few stars in their squad, while just selling two of their leading goalscorers. Coach Steffen Baumgart will therefore have a particularly tough task on his hands but has made a commitment to keep his team up by playing attacking football.Some cause for comfort is that the two players who scored in perhaps Paderborn’s most noteworthy win last season, a 4-1 win in mid-May over fellow promotion challengers SV Hamburg, are still at the club. Sebastian Vasiliadisand Christopher Antwi-Adjei, who both found the net twice in that startling victory, have been joined this summer by Rifet Kapić, who showed some promising touches in preseason.The odds are against them but given the swaggering manner of their promotion (they scored 76 goals in 34 matches) you suspect that may be just how they like it.

7. Wolfsburg, a club hungry on two fronts

Last season was a strong one for VFL Wolfsburg as a club but left plenty of room for growth. In the 10th year since they won their only Bundesliga title, their men’s team finished sixth in the Bundesliga. Meanwhile, their women’s team clinched the league and cup double but were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage of the UEFA Champions League by eventual winners Lyon.Winners of this trophy in 2013 and 2014, they will look to go yet further this year and spearheaded by Pernille Herder, Europe’s player of the year in 2018 and the Bundesliga’s top scorer last season, they are well-placed to do so. This summer, the men’s team has looked very good in preseason, most notably with a fine 2-0 win over PSV Eindhoven, and with the additions of Joao Victor they should score more of the goals that would raise them towards the league’s very elite.

And finally… someone is learning German

It would not normally be major news that a 56-year-old man is about to take up intensive German classes, but it is news when that man is Jose Mourinho.The former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United boss revealed this information in an interview with Sky Sports, saying that he would be going to two or three lessons a week from September onwards. He also emphasised that he would persist with the language despite its difficulty, that he would be patient in awaiting the right job and that he would only consider a position in one of Europe’s top five leagues, in a club befitting his level.Leaving us to connect the dots as he so obviously has, that would suggest that Bayern Munich are one club that may be particularly high in the former Man United manager’s esteem. It will be interesting to see how long Mourinho will wait and whether, once he becomes more explicit in his ambitions, Bayern will be at the tip of his tongue.

SPAIN- Atletico won the summer transfer window but will they pip Barcelona and Real Madrid to La Liga?

:49 PM ETGraham HunterSpain writer

The 2019-20 La Liga season kicks off this weekend and much of the attention will be on the top three teams fighting it out for the title. Graham Hunter gets you ready for the new campaign with a look at how their offseasons unfolded.

Jump to: Will Felix be La Liga’s star? | Can Atletico’s new arrivals shine? | Did Real do bad business? | Neymar a distraction for Barcelona?

Atletico Madrid have won the summer, hands down.Diego Simeone’s team having sold over €300 million of talent and brought in over €240m of young, hungry replacements (to date) means that even if either of their La Liga arms-race rivals managed to land Neymar before the window closes on Sept. 2, Barcelona sheepishly pick up the silver medal, with Real Madrid not only third (where they finished the last two La Liga campaigns) but frantically trying to convince everyone that bronze looks awfully similar to gold.

If only there were a trophy to show for it. The transfer-related tag of “Summer Champions” signifies about as much as the increasingly heard but slightly risible tag of “Winter Champions” for those who sit top of the table when the Christmas break arrives.Nevertheless: a job well begun is a job half done, right? So let’s give more than just kudos and a patronising pat on the back to Atleti. They faced what looked like a horrendous challenge, haemorrhaging a mix of experience, winning mentality, club legends and two superb young bucks in Rodri and Lucas Hernandez. Yet their judgment, efficacy of market management, speed of work, ability to spot the revelation of this transfer window (or indeed many previous), Joao Felix, and their net spend of around €8m — if you factor in the €60m arrival of Rodrigo from Valencia — suggests that Atleti have spat in the eye of adversity.Whether it wins them La Liga remains to be seen, but a summer that could have left them fighting an uphill battle now sees them muscular, nimble and potentially able to punch above their weight. This season in Spain is going to be xciting, a real smackdown between the three giants of La Liga — Barca, Real and Atletico — so here are some talking points.play

Will Joao Felix be La Liga’s star?

Felix is only 19, still rather slender and will find it testing to work with Atletico manager Diego Simeone and coaches Mono Burgos and Oscar Ortega. Felix is a La Liga debutant with initiation songs to sing, pranks to put up with, and image-management by the club imposed on him so that expectations are dampened after his €126m arrival.Yet, this is a kid blessed with such extraordinary talent, such chutzpah, acceleration, positional wit and an exceptional eye for goal that his Atleti teammates are already instinctively looking for him whenever they have the ball. Every single player in that squad has taken one look and said: “We have signed a diamond — let’s get him on the ball.”– When does the 2019-20 La Liga season start?
If the composer George Frideric Handel were still alive, Atleti would be commissioning him to compose a second Hallelujah chorus. They have found their Messiah.No matter his talent, a player of Felix’s age, carrying such a weight of expectation and responsibility, will encounter bumps along the road in his first complete season in La Liga. That said, the move remains extraordinary for a number of reasons. With Madrid and Barcelona involved in what is both an unseemly and, arguably, unnecessary squabble for Neymar’s grossly expensive services, don’t they both look stupid for missing the chance to purchase Felix? The answer is a resounding “YES!”Moreover, Atleti somehow managed to agree with Benfica, the player and his agent, Jorge Mendes, a payment plan where they only have to splash out in the region of €40m (down payment, agent payment, sell-on payment to Porto where he originated) before the rest is paid over the course of his contract. If Felix performs well enough to help Atleti reach at least the Champions League semifinals, the forward could earn his new club the entire remainder of the fee within nine months. That. Is. Utterly. Astonishing. Business.

Can Atletico’s other new arrivals replace those who left?

Losing Rodri (€70m to Manchester City) and Lucas (€80m to Bayern Munich) are blows Atletico would have wanted to avoid, but the club have long known they would need replacing at some point.At the back, even though Diego Godin — who left for Inter this summer — was bedevilled by errors last season, it’s worth waiting to evaluate the loss of his personality and “win at any cost” attitude. But for Atleti to add the tall, tough Felipe from Porto, as well as the talented Mario Hermoso, for €30m less than Bayern were forced to pay for Lucas, is spectacular.Kieran Trippier’s move from Tottenham came out of the blue, but while he might not be as attentive to details and defensive concentration as Simeone likes, his attitude and crossing ability should give A+ service to what should be a thrilling Atleti front line.None of Renan LodiHector Herrera or Ivan Saponjic make you fret for Atleti’s investments, while Marcos Llorente, signed from hated rivals Real Madrid, is a fine facsimile of Rodri. They aren’t identically talented but Llorente was under-priced at €30m, brims with energy, industry and athleticism, is a superb professional and looks ready to make Atleti’s central midfield punishingly hard-working.Then there’s the “other Rodri,” Rodrigo Moreno. If Atleti wrap up a €60m move for this athletic, relentlessly team-minded striker, who has been playing winning international fotball with Koke and Alvaro Morata since they were all kids, it’s the icing on the cake.Atletico have had one hell of a summer. But it’s not over yet. Spain’s transfer market closes on Sept. 2 and there’s still time for huge change, though they are already looking in better shape than their rivals.The fact that several key veterans chose to leave at the end of their contracts had threatened disaster, but it can now be construed as advantageous. Madrid and Barca are replete with players on high wages they’d like to ship out but who are refusing to budge. Not Atleti.

Has Real Madrid’s spending addressed their needs?

Atleti’s rapier-like approach to business contrasts starkly with Real Madrid’s blunderbuss style. Yes, they’ve splashed out (at the time of writing) €305.5m (gross, not net) and there’s quite a lot of “rock ‘n roll” glitz to boast about with the likes of Eden Hazard. But have they specifically reinforced the things that went awry last season? Have they done what coach Zinedine Zidane wanted this summer?In short, no. And an utterly horrific 7-3 thrashing imposed on Zidane’s team by Atletico at the ICC tournament in July suggests that Real might not even be favourites in their own city, let alone for the La Liga title.Left-back Ferland Mendy was indeed a Zizou choice, and has sparked Marcelo‘s competitive instincts, but at €48m it’s not good that Mendy is already out with a thigh injury. Centre-back Eder Militao may turn out to be an ideal buy, but Zidane has been flitting uncertainly between four at the back and a 5-3-2/3-5-2 system, so we’ll see how quickly the €50m 21-year-old (a €40m+ profit for Porto just 12 months after buying him) can bring security at the back.

Rodrygo and Kubo (an 18-year-old Japanese starlet who was initially part of FC Barcelona’s academy until their FIFA ban was imposed) ooze promise, thrills and a sprinkling of the magic dust of international marketing allure, yet will struggle to make a real impact until they gain a bit more experience.Hazard adds the pedigree — unquestionably a talent of gargantuan proportions — but why on earth did the €100m winger turn up for work at his new club, one that is in turmoil, in the kind of preseason shape that would have been acceptable in, say, 1978? It’s not Madrid’s fault but it’s certainly emblematic of dipping standards.And finally, €60m striker Luka Jovic will score goals but looks well short of having the build-up play and savvy that Madrid will need against the elite group of Liga and European clubs they measure themselves against. He’s that mythical breed of striker who “only” scores goals. An odd, expensive signing.The players who have arrived all add their own parts of youth, athleticism, hunger and energy — valuable commodities in what was a moribund Madrid squad last season — but there are still more weaknesses in the business that club president Florentino Perez and his right-hand man, Jose Angel Sanchez, have managed to conduct since May.

Gareth Bale, with the Premier League and Chinese transfer markets now closed, has stayed put — despite Zidane admitting in public that “it would be best” if the Welshman left — and is likely to stay unless PSG accept him in part exchange for Neymar or he’s sent out on loan.

Thus far, there has been no move for Man United midfielder Paul Pogba either. Whether the controversial World Cup winner is or isn’t the cure for Los Blancos’ midfield ills, Zidane is wedded to the idea of buying him and has been infuriated by Perez’s failure to secure that deal.

If Neymar arrives, it will be like salt in the wound. Thus far, Real’s best midfield options are Luka ModricToni Kroos and Casemiro, which although still full of class, is bemusing. Slow, sometimes disinterested, porous, unable to control possession, lacking athleticism and physicality all last season, it’s remarkable that (attempts to sign Pogba aside) no corrective action has been taken to strengthen the midfield.

Will Barcelona be distracted by Neymar pursuit?

Judging them by their own, well-publicised objectives for the close-season, Barca could award themselves a complacent pat on the back, a glass of cava, exchange mutually appreciative smiles among their football executives — and then their rivals could laugh up their sleeves at the Camp Nou finances.Barcelona’s self-set task sheet was: add competition at left-back, augment possession-control and passing in midfield and then, a year late, add French flair up front. Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann (was there really any doubt where he was going?) tick those boxes.Throw in some measurable progress from their young talents (Jean-Clair TodiboCarles Alena, Ricki Puig and Carles Perez) and the outward signs are decent. However, even with the departures of MalcomAndre GomesMarc Cucurella and Denis Suarez, Barcelona need to sell … and profitably.RafinhaPhilippe Coutinho and Juan Miranda must be calculating how long it’ll take them to unpack their training ground lockers, while if the right price were offered for Arturo Vidal then the Camp Nou bean-counters would produce their abacuses in Olympic time.

The club has vastly strained its financial muscle for three reasons. 1) expensive contract extensions; 2) investment in the Camp Nou renovation project; 3) President Josep Maria Bartomeu’s public promise that his parting gift (before summer 2021, which is the latest there can be elections to determine his successor) will be another lengthening of Lionel Messi‘s contract.Messi craves Champions League victories, not because Cristiano Ronaldo has more of them but because he’s a natural-born competitor who has also suffered a series of brutal European disappointments in recent years at the hands of Atletico, Juventus, Roma and Liverpool.If Bartomeu wants “Team Messi” to look indulgently on the opening of contract negotiations, he’ll do well to re-patriate Neymar. Messi, whether you concur or not, believes that his Brazilian pal will add incisor teeth to Barca’s European bite (Luis Suarez hasn’t scored a Champions League goal away from home for nearly four years and hit the net only five times in the last 29 UCL matches).

However as long as PSG keep insisting on cash only for Neymar, whether that sum is €120m or €220m, Barcelona can’t afford to buy him back. I believe it’s that simple. Nor, it seems increasingly clear, can they persuade Ivan Rakitic or his Sevilla-born wife that the footballing life (and climate) is anything but worse any further north than Barcelona. PSG want the Croatian, but like Bale at Madrid, he’s not keen to depart.

All of which leaves both Barcelona and Madrid desperately thrashing around for a means to secure a Brazilian they can’t afford, didn’t budget for and who’ll also cost them dearly in terms of existing playing staff (Vinicius Jr., Isco, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo at Real; Ousmane Dembele and Coutinho at Barca) who’d be required to drop to the bench or leave altogether.Meanwhile, over at Atletico, Felix may still only hint at the potential to reproduce what Neymar has achieved in his career, but the Portuguese is impressing with a new cadre of athletic and hungry teammates around him.Atleti win the summer. Now, can they add the La Liga title?Hold tight, this battle has the potential to be immensely entertaining, explosive, and potentially embarrassing for some.

 

NWSL-record crowd gets what it came for in Thorns’ win

Aug 11, 2019Graham HaysespnW.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — It wasn’t the largest crowd ever to watch a professional women’s soccer game in this country, but it was the largest crowd that knew what it signed up for.The 25,218 people who filled Providence Park on Sunday afternoon to watch the Portland Thorns play the North Carolina Courage, the largest crowd in NWSL history and second largest in any of three attempts at a domestic league, weren’t there for what women’s soccer could be. They weren’t there for the potential.They came because a game between these two teams matters.They weren’t here to celebrate the World Cup that the United States won last month. They came because the NWSL Shield, handed out to the regular season’s best team, is very much up for grabs, with Portland taking the lead after Sunday’s 2-1 comeback win. Not to mention the trophy to be handed out at the conclusion of the playoffs.With rosters across the league finally at full strength after a summer of comings and goings, the race to the finish is on in the NWSL. That finish has never mattered more. The league has never mattered more. Which is why every team in the league is trying to figure out how to be the best version of itself.”The team that integrates their World Cup players and their international players and whomever else best throughout July and throughout August,” Portland’s Meghan Klingenberg said before the game, “is going to be the team that comes out on top at the end of the season.”It took North Carolina all of four minutes to find at least some chemistry between those who have been around all summer and the newly returned. The reigning NWSL player of the month, Kristen Hamilton, chased down a Lynn Williams pass that pulled her wide on the right side. Hamilton’s cross from the end line caromed off a charging Williams in front of goal, Portland defenders slower to react than Williams, and fell to Crystal Dunn’s feet. The defense again a step slow to react, Dunn had an extra beat to settle her feet and send the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.Dunn spent much of the summer, of course, focused on denying goals rather than scoring them, playing outside back for the U.S. throughout the World Cup. But her return to North Carolina, interrupted last week by the opening game of the U.S. victory tour, meant pivoting back to the attacking role that she has filled so well throughout her NWSL career.

“It’s day by day,” Dunn said this weekend. “For me, there’s some good days and some bad days. But I think that’s just what comes with it. I always think I am fit for the job. My career has always allowed me to embrace that role, but it’s not easy. It takes a week, maybe two weeks — hopefully not more than that.”It might be less pronounced for others, but that’s the adjustment that most World Cup players are making as they return to the league, where they rarely play an identical role. That was certainly the case for Portland’s Adrianna Franch, who didn’t play a minute as the third goalkeeper for the U.S. in the World Cup but Sunday faced a barrage of 20 shots en route to 10 saves.On the other side of that equation, the players left to mind the fort during the summer have grown accustomed to life without those players on the national team. Go back to the opening goal and the role Hamilton played. It was fitting that she helped set up Dunn, because much as Dunn seized her opportunity to shine during a World Cup year in 2015, Hamilton has made as much of this summer as any player in the league — her player of the month honors evidence of that.”I think you can attribute where she stands to the World Cup,” North Carolina coach Paul Riley said. “She might not have got that opportunity had Jess been there the whole time. It worked in her favor. This is a life-changing, career-changing thing that can happen in the World Cup, and it’s changed her career, I think. She’ll go on to bigger and better things.”The same goes for Portland’s Midge Purce. It wasn’t a coincidence that after the Thorns looked discombobulated through long stretches of the first half, the tide turned when Purce and Australian World Cup returnee Hayley Raso entered the game as halftime substitutes. The goal that leveled the game at 1-1 was officially an own goal, bouncing in off North Carolina keeper Steph Labbe in the 56th minute. But it was Purce, challenging for the ball, who was responsible for the traffic that knocked Labbe off balance as she jumped to go after Elizabeth Ball’s cross.Dunn’s coach with the Washington Spirit in 2015, current Portland coach Mark Parsons, said he envisioned a similar role for Purce this season — that she would play out wide in the early going and then take over the No. 9 role as the team’s striker when World Cup duty decimated the roster. Now the World Cup stars are back and Purce still looks mighty comfortable in the that role.”Midge has done a great job of grabbing the game by the neck and not letting go — and I mean that in the most positive way,” Klingenberg said. “I don’t think that Midge scores or assists every game, but she causes havoc for the other team. And because she causes havoc, it allows our other players to get on the ball and produce goals. So even if she isn’t getting in on the action, she’s still making her mark. That’s the mark of a really sophisticated player. I think that Midge didn’t have that last year, but since she was able to get those minutes … and develop into the player that she is, that she’s really done a great job making herself indispensable.”The challenge for the weeks to come is fitting all of those pieces together, ensuring Dunn and Hamilton have chemistry together or that Purce reads Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair well.That cohesion wasn’t there Sunday, not for all 90 minutes. Both teams scrambled, with the game not decided until after a second North Carolina own goal and a series of last-ditch saves from Franch.Considering a loss would have dropped the Thorns off the pace set by North Carolina and Chicago, with the top two finishers in the regular season earning the right to host semifinals, Sunday’s result was especially valuable for the hosts. But the result was only the short-term objective. Building for October is the bigger goal.”When we see consistent high-level performance with results, I think that’s when you can say it’s there,” Parsons said. “Because we have the talent, we have everything we need to succeed. When things are clicking, we’re rolling. … We’re getting there slowly. I hope [we get there] very, very soon. If in the next week everything came together perfectly, great.”But I predict there’s a few more games like this where it’s wild, it’s chaos.”The only game in a women’s pro league that outdrew Sunday’s contest was the very first game in the WUSA, the first attempt at a pro league that launched in 2001 in the afterglow of the 1999 World Cup. People showed up then because of what they hoped women’s soccer could become.They showed up Sunday because, certainly in this soccer-mad city, women’s soccer became that.It became a place where the title the Thorns and Courage chase isn’t merely an afterthought.”I feel like the league, in and of itself, is so important,” North Carolina’s Sam Mewis said. “It’s a place for so many people to play. I don’t feel like it has to be a feeder league for the national team anymore. I think being in the NWSL is a huge deal. A lot of times that gets overlooked when you don’t get into the national team, because I feel like that is a goal for everybody.”But I kind of want to start looking at the NWSL as totally separate. And playing [in the league], that’s what people want to do.”

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN RETURNS HOME IN SECOND MATCH-UP VS. SAINT LOUIS FC

By IndyEleven.com, 08/15/19, 6:15PM EDT

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The Boys in Blue Look to Extend Year-Long Home Undefeated Streak to 19 Sunday Night

 


Indy Eleven vs. Saint Louis FC    Sunday, August 18, 2019 – 6:00 P.M. ET   Lucas Oil Stadium  |  Indianapolis, IN       

 

Local/National TV: MyINDY-TV 23

Radio (Spanish): Exitos Radio 1590 AM

In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Honda

 

SETTING THE TABLE:

Indy Eleven: 12W-4L-4D, 40 pts., 5th in Eastern Conference

Saint Louis FC: 6W-7L-8D, 26 pts., 11th in Eastern Conference

Click here for the full USL Championship standings

 

#INDVSTL STORYLINES

  • Indy Eleven looks to capture its first victory against Saint Louis FC in regular season play this Sunday. Indy has an all-time record of 1W-1D-1L against the Missouri club, defeating and drawing the side in two pre-season friendlies played in 2015 and 2016 in addition to a loss at the start of the 2019 USL Championship campaign.
  • A victory would boost the Boys in Blue back into sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference with 43 points, while still having three games in hand on the current clubs leading Indiana’s Team in the table.
  • Indy Eleven has the chance to extend its undefeated home streak to 19 games come Sunday night, a streak that stretches back to July 7, 2018, following a 2-1 victory over Charlotte Independence.
  • Indy’s defense at home has been nearly impenetrable. The Boys in Blue have given up two goals in 10 games at home en route to recording eight clean sheets inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • Indiana’s Team leads the entire USL Championship in fewest goals allowed with 15 total concessions, and is second in the league and Eastern Conference in clean sheets recorded with 10.
  • A few new Boys in Blue could be available for selection Sunday night in forwards Gabriel Rodrigues and Cristian Novoa and midfielder Drew Conner.
  • Conner spent the 2016 USL season with Saint Louis FC on loan from Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire. The former Fire homegrown signing made 12 appearances with Saint Louis FC before being recalled back to the MLS ranks for the 2017-18 seasons.

 

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH | MF KENNEY WALKER

Walker’s first assist came in the opening game of the 2019 USL Championship season against Saint Louis FC back on March 9. The former FC Cincinnati midfielder assised defender Neveal Hackshaw in scoring his first goal as an Indy Eleven player from a well-placed corner kick in the 61st minute. Walker went on to record two more assists the following two games before being sidelined for a short period with injury.The 30-year-old has been a consistent presence in the midfield, completing 81% of his passes through 17 appearances in his first season with Indiana’s Team. He’s moved the ball, and did so especially well against Saint Louis, completing 88% of his passes in Week One.

 

SAINT LOUIS FC PLAYER TO WATCH | FW KYLE GREIG

Grief, the squad’s joint-leading scorer forward, will look to add to his current five-goal tally against Indiana’s Team this Sunday. The 29-year-old has been an aerial force for Saint Louis through his 19 appearances, as every goal the six-foot-two-inch forward has scored has ricocheted off his cranium.  The Boys in Blue will have to mark Greig tight during dead ball situations and when lofty crosses are played into the box. The forward leads his team in aerial duels won, winning 102 of the 170 he’s battled in. Greig failed to cross the goal line in the last outing against Indy, but was able to record the assist on Saint Louis’ winning goal.

 

MATCH-UP TO MARK | INDY’S TYLER PASHER VS. SAINT LOUIS’ SAM FINK

In the first meeting between Indy Eleven and Saint Louis FC, young forward Josh Penn ran rampant down Saint Louis’ flanks. Penn showed flashes of brilliance with his skill and nearly scored the game’s opening goal, even grounding the outside back he faced with a stutter step leading up to the on-target attempt.Now, Saint Louis will have to deal with experienced winger and midfielder Tyler Pasher in the role that Penn played at the start of the year. Pasher leads Indy in scoring with eight goals to date, three of which have come as bursting runs down opposition flanks at the expense of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Charleston Battery and most recently against Loudoun United FC. Pasher’s been deadly when placing shots on target, scoring half the 16 shots he’s put on frame.The man in the middle of the Saint Louis defense tasked with containing the pacey Canadian is center back Sam Fink. The 26-year-old dominates Saint Louis’ defensive statistics, leading his side in every major category. He’s also tied with Greig for goals scored (5) after converting a penalty in the last match against Charleston – and that doesn’t count the clutch late goal he tallied in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play to down MLS side FC Cincinnati in dramatic fashion. The captain, now in his fourth season with Saint Louis FC, has been incredibly dependable for his side this season, starting every match and being subbed off in only one appearance.Indy Eleven (12W-4L-4D, 40 pts., 5th in Eastern Conference) will return to USL Championship action with a pair of Sunday evening affairs the next two weekends against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 18 (Faith & Family Night) and Charlotte Independence on Aug. 25 (“Red Out” Summer Celebration). Tickets for those 6:00 p.m. contests at Lucas Oil Stadium remain available for as little as $15 and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

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

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

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8/9/19 EPL Season Kicksoff, US Christian Pulisic plays at Man U Sun 11:30 on NBCSN, MLS Rooney leaving DC United faces LA Galaxy Sun 7:30 pm on FS1,

Ok soccer fans – so the EPL Season kicked off Friday afternoon with European Champions Liverpool destroying Norwich 4-1 on opening day.  Full game line-ups on Saturday and especially on Sunday at 11:30 am when Chelsea and New American startlet Christian Pulisic is expected to make his regular season debut with Chelsea when they take on fellow top six challengers Manchester United in a match that could set the tone for both teams heading into the season. Chelsea finished the 2018-19 season in third place in the EPL, but due to their incoming transfer ban, they have seen several key players depart including Eden Hazard and David Luiz. Pulisic is the most notable addition to the squad for the upcoming season. The general movement would suggest that the club could have a hard time maintaining their Champions League position under first year manager Frank Lampard. Manchester United finished the 2018-19 campaign in sixth place in the Premier League, and they would like to push themselves back into top four relevance this season. But, it remains to be seen whether Ole Gunnar Solskjær is really the manager to be leading them and whether the pieces they’ve assembled this season, with the loss of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the addition of Harry Maguire from Leicester City, will be enough to get the job done.  It all goes down Sunday right after New Castle United and US defender Deandre Yedlin host Arsenal.  So I guess I need to make my picks for this season.  I think Liverpool will finally win the English Premier League for the first time in 30 years – however they won’t win Champions League – out in the round of 4 or maybe 8?  I think Man City will make the run to the final 8 at least in Champs League but will give up the title chasing UEFA honors.  Tottenham will finish 4rd in my mind – as they kept everyone and made a good late addition to the squad.  The battle for the 4th Champs League spot should be epic with Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and perhaps a retooled Everton making that push.  I think Arsenal might well be the team – but I am of course will be rooting for American Pulisic and Chelsea to claim that spot.  I think Pulisic will have to score double digit goals and double digit assists for that kind of run to happen and while that would be awesome for US Soccer I just don’t know.  (Not since Dempsey was starring at Fulham has an American scored more than 10 goals in a season.) I am still worried that Pulisic might get injured – the EPL is a really rough league – much rougher than the Bundesliga.  Here’s hoping he has success – this new Chelsea fan will be watching!

MLS

So plenty of MLS teams made some interesting pick-ups on transfer deadline day this week – as LAFC, LA Galaxy and others made big signings.  The biggest move however was DC United’s Wayne Rooney’s announcement that he is leaving to become player coach at Derby County after the MLS Season ends.  That leaves us with probably our only opportunity to see the two legends Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovich for LA Galaxy clash the Sunday, 7:30 pm ET on Fox Sports 1.  Also huge news as Carmel High Grad and former Carmel High Soccer star Matt Hedges is set to tie the record for most starts for Dallas FC this weekend.

Carmel FC

So Carmel FC Goalkeeping Training returns this week with Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr.  We plan to be at Shelbourne on the upper school fields Thursday 8/15 starting at 6 pm U10-U12, 7 pm U13-U15.  CFC Coaches please send me new names and contact info if you have new Goalkeepers this season.  Congrats to all those players who made high school teams this past week at CHS or Guerin or University and good luck on the season.  For those who may not have made the team – please reach out to Carmel Dads about Recreating soccer last second additions as soon as you can.  The recreation high school games start next weekend.

JF-flyer-8x11-v4

Carmel High Grad and former Carmel High Soccer star Matt Hedges is set to tie the record for most starts for Dallas FC

Former Carmel High Ladies Grad Emily Speidel Wins Gatorade Player of the Year

EPL
American Youngster Pulisic could become an instant start at Chelsea – Doug McIntyre Yahoo Sports

Americans Abroad: EPL Season Preview Stars and Stripes

All Rise for Chelsea vs Man United Sun 11:30 am on NBCSN

Ian Darke’s EPL Predictions

What if the USMNT played in the Premier League? S&S

Ranking the EPL Kits Worst to Best

Premier League Season Preview – Arsenal

Liverpool have to bolster depleted squad’ – Lack of movement surprises Houghton

Premier League fixtures 2019-20 in full 

 USA

USMNT Viewing Guide for Watching your Favorite US Player S&S

Americans Abroad: EPL Season Preview Stars and Stripes

Chelsea’s Pulisic not Your Wonderboy Anymore

World

– Kuper: Why De Ligt chose Juventus
– Horncastle: How did Juve become the best at free transfers?

MLS

Americans at home: Checking back in on all of your favorite Americans in MLS

What to Watch For ESPNFC

Tale of the Tape: Two legends face off in D.C.

Ring: ATL-NYC always one of the best games in MLS

Atlanta United to host Club América in second-annual Campeones Cup – Onefootball

MLS and Liga MX announced that Atlanta United will take on Club América in the Campeones Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on 14 August.

Atlanta United to host Minnesota United or Portland Timbers in USOC final – MLSsoccer.com

– Vickery: Pavon boosts Galaxy’s attack in hopes of Europe move
– Carlisle: Why Rooney’s Derby move diminishes his MLS legacy

Indy 11

3 Things Week 22

11 Beat NC to Stay 3rd in East

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Sat 9 am Soccer Talk with Greg Rakestraw on 1070 the Fan & 107.5 FM

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Aug 9

3 pm NBCSN                           Liverpool vs Norwich City EPL Starts

Sat, Aug 10

7:30 am NBCSN                                    West Ham vs Man City

10 am NBCSN                                        Bournemouth vs Sheffield United

11:30 am bein Sport                                                Marseille vs Reims (France Ligue 1)

12:30 pm NBCN                                   Tottenham vs Aston Villa

4 pm ESPN+                                            Barcelona vs Napoli Friendly

7:30 pm ESPN+                                    Columbus vs Cincy

Sun, Aug 11

9 am CNBC                                              Leciester City vs Wolverhampton

9 am NBCSN                                           Newcastle United (Yedlin) vs Arsenal

11:30 amNBCSN                                  Man United vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

12:30 pm ESPN+                                 Juventus vs Atletico Madrid  ICC

3 pm beIN Sport                                 PSG vs Nimes

3 pm ESPN News                                 Portland Thorns vs North Carolina  NWSL

4 pm ESPN                                                                       Atlanta United vs NYCFC

7:30 pm FS1                                           DC United vs LA Galaxy

10 pm FS1                                                                        LAFC vs NY Red Bulls

Weds, Aug 14

3 pm TNT?                                               Liverpool vs Chelsea (Pulisic) – UEFA Super Cup

8 pm Fubo TV/UD                              Atlanta united vs America (Campeones Cup)

Fri, Aug 16

2:30 pm FS2                            Bayern Munich vs Hertha German Bundesliga Starts

3 pm beIN Sport                     Atheltic Club vs Barcelona (La Liga Starts)

Sat, Aug 17

7:30 am NBCSN                                    Arsenal vs Burnley

9:30 am FS1                                            Dortmund vs Ausburg

9:30 am FS2                                            Werder Bremen (Sargeant) vs Dusseldorf

10 am CNBC                                           Aston villa vs Bournmouth

10 am NBCSN                                        Southampton vs Liverpool

11 am bein Sport                               Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid

12:30 pm NBC                                      Man City vs Tottenham

12:30 pm FS1                                        MGladbach (Johnson) vs Schalke (McKinney)

 

International Champions Cup Schedule July 16-Aug 18

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

Premier League preview: Why Christian Pulisic can become an instant Chelsea star

Doug McIntyreYahoo SportsAug 5, 2019, 10:35 AM

Welcome to Yahoo Soccer’s Premier League Starting XI. This lineup of stories will get you ready for the upcoming season as we count down to kickoff on Friday.

For American fans of the English Premier League, this season has a little bit of extra spice. A United States-born field player — Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic — will for the first time ever head into the new campaign as a surefire starter for a top-end club in the world’s most popular circuit. Better yet, from the looks of things so far, it appears he is up to the challenge.When we first learned last January that Pulisic would be leaving German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund for the biggest stage in the club game, the move was met with tempered enthusiasm. Sure, the $73 million price tag that almost tripled the previous record for a U.S. national teamer and spoke to how highly the 20-year-old attacker was regarded by one of the game’s richest teams.This was Chelsea, though, where current superstars like Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne were chewed up and spit out before their talent was nurtured by Liverpool and Manchester City, where they blossomed into world-class attackers. It was fair to wonder how much Pulisic would actually play at Stamford Bridge.

So when then-Blues manager Maurizio Sarri said he didn’t know the club was about to complete the deal for Pulisic — a quote was both taken out of context and lost in translation — the idea that Chelsea might not be the best fit for The Great American Hope took hold. Seven months later, though, those fears appear overblown.While success for the basketball-loving Pulisic isn’t a slam dunk, he seems significantly better positioned to do well immediately than he did when he first signed. Sarri is gone, having been replaced by club legend Frank Lampard. Lampard may have just one season on the sidelines under his belt — he led second-tier Derby County to the brink of Premier League promotion in May — but he’s probably a better fit for Pulisic than the 60-year-old Italian. Lampard’s first language obviously is English, and the former star midfielder, who retired just three years ago, knows from personal experience the pressure Pulisic will face coming of age under the bright lights of the British game.  Plus, Lampard seems to like him. Pulisic endeared himself to his new boss immediately by cutting short his post-Gold Cup vacation to join up with the team in Asia. Lampard rewarded him by starting the Hershey, Pennsylvania native in all but one of Chelsea’s preseason matches, including its last four. Pulisic has played well, too, scoring his first two goals and adding an assist for his new club in last week’s friendly win over Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg.  At this point, it’s clear that Pulisic will be in the starting lineup when Chelsea kicks off its 2019-20 campaign on Sunday in the highest-profile fashion possible: a trip to 76,000-seat Old Trafford to face Manchester United, the team Pulisic grew up idolizing an ocean away.  It should go without saying that both Lampard and Chelsea’s demanding fans will insist on production from the start. But this move has been a long time coming for Pulisic, who will celebrate his 21st birthday next month. He knows what’s expected. He always wanted to play in England, to return to the country where he spent a year of his life as a boy thanks to his father’s job.  The change of scenery appears to have energized him so far. Pulisic’s early performances suggest a player determined to prove he can excel in the sport’s most cutthroat circuit. He’s been playing as a left forward, a position he excelled at in Dortmund. And even if it does take Pulisic a few months to fully settle, a FIFA transfer ban confirmed in May will prevent the club from simply replacing him midseason.  Sure, constant comparisons to longtime Blues playmaker Eden Hazard, who left the club for Real Madrid this summer, are inevitable. And Stamford Bridge, despite Russian owner Roman Abramovich’s endless supply of cash, remains a famously dysfunctional place. Things can always go sideways.  Based on how the stars are aligning, though, Pulisic could well excel with the Blues.

Americans Abroad: EPL Season Preview

Christian Pulisic leads a small contingent of just 3 Americans in the English top flight.

By Alex Showell  Aug 5, 2019, 7:00am PDTChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-2020 English Premier League season kicks off this week and United States Men’s National Team fans will want to keep a close eye on the three Americans playing in the league. Christian Pulisic will attract the most attention, as he will likely prove to be integral to Chelsea’s chances of success. DeAndre Yedlin will also be a vital contributor to his club, but NewcastleUnited could be in for a fierce relegation battle. While Cameron Cater-Vickers is still at Tottenham, he seems to have no path to the Starting XI and will hopefully be heading out on loan. Here’s a closer look at what to expect for Pulisic, Yedlin, and Carter-Vickers.

Christian Pulisic

Club: Chelsea

Age: 20

Position: Right/Left Winger

Last Season: Christian Pulisic is by far the most notable American playing in the Premier League this season. Christian Pulisic completed an approximately $71 million transfer to Chelsea in January but was loaned back to Dortmund for the end of the 2018-2019 season.

The young superstar contributed seven goals and six assists in thirty appearances (all competitions) for Borussia Dortmund, but he had a frustrating season. Pulisic fell down the depth chart and suffered from several injuries. He was not as his best but showed glimpses of his incredible skill.

Upcoming Season: Pulisic is expected to be a starter every match and will look to fill the void left by the departure of Eden Hazard (who joined Real Madrid). If he could he contribute 10+ goals and assists, that would mark an excellent season for the guy who will turn 21 in September. However, this may be too much to expect from a young player who will be adjusting to a new league. As a team, Chelsea will look to advance to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages and qualify for next season’s tournament (by finishing in the Premier League top four).

The London-based club have experienced an offseason full of upheaval. Star player Eden Hazard and manager Maurizio Sarri (who joined Juventus) have departed, FIFA has handed the club a transfer ban and club legend Frank Lampard has been appointed as the new manager. Pulisic will look to guide the club to a top-four finish and improve upon his previous season, but this could be quite difficult.

 

DeAndre Yedlin

Club: Newcastle United

Age: 26

Position: Right Back

Last Season: DeAndre Yedlin had an inconsistent season for a Newcastle side that finished 13th in the Premier League table. He made 29 appearances (in all competitions), scoring one goal and adding two assists.

Upcoming Season: Expect Yedlin to be a consistent starter. He and the Magpies will face a brutal relegation battle. Fans are understandably fed up with owner Mike Ashley, who has spent little money on the club and seems to have no intention of selling it.  The departure of manager Rafa Benitez and the hiring of Steve Bruce makes it seems like Newcastle will be in for a long season. Given the difficult circumstances, Yedlin performing at the same level as last season would be a success. However, it’s nearly impossible for defenders to excel individually when their teams struggle.

 Cameron Carter-Vickers

Club: Tottenham Hotspur  he was loaned to Aston Villa on Thursday !

Age: 21

Position: Centerback

Last Season: Cameron Carter-Vickers had a solid season for Championship side Swansea City, making thirty-three appearances in all competitions. He struggled to break into the squad during the first half of the season but became a regular starter by January.

Carter-Vickers demonstrated impressive poise on the ball and a decent passing ability however, his tackling leaves much to be desired.

Upcoming Season: As of now, Carter-Vickers is still on the books at Tottenham. Tottenham has an excellent chance to make a deep run in the Champions League and will be challenging for the title. However, don’t expect Carter-Vickers to play much of a role.  He will hopefully be sent out on loan shortly, or otherwise will be spending a season on the bench. He is buried on the depth chart behind Toby AlderweireldJan Vertonghen, and Davinson Sanchez. Carter-Vickers is a solid, but still raw defender who needs more playing time to further his development. Another loan to a Championship side would provide an excellent opportunity.

 

*While Kyle Scott plays for Newcastle United, both Transfermarkt and Wikipedia list him as a member of Newcastle’s U-23 side. It’s unlikely he appears in the Premier League this season, but he may feature in a few cup matches.  What kind of seasons are you expecting from Pulisic, Yedlin, and Carter-Vickers?

Ian Darke’s Premier League predictions: It’s Liverpool’s year

Aug 8, 2019Ian DarkeESPN.com writer

On the eve of another Premier League season full of intrigue, optimism runs high everywhere … well, almost everywhere. But before a ball is kicked, there are more questions than answers even for the usual suspects in the top six (and check the bottom for my final verdict on the Top 4 and relegation battle).The smart money says it will be Manchester City and Liverpool running away at the top again. Both have been relatively quiet in the summer market. As talented as City are, you wonder if their focus might switch to the prize that has eluded them, the Champions League, when push comes to shove this season. That might just open the door to a Liverpool team who will bring manic intensity to their quest to end a long league title drought going back to 1990. Yet the heavy summer workload on their famous three strikers — Mohamed Salahand Sadio Mane played in the African Cup of Nations for Egypt and Senegal, respectively, while Roberto Firmino represented Brazil in the Copa America — makes you wonder if the Reds should have bought extra cover.

Arsenal will surely be full of goals now that £72 million winger Nicolas Pepe is joining the prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, but the club has not done enough to fix a leaky defence — they signed David Luizfrom Chelsea, but as we all know, he is often a howler waiting to happen — and need to improve their performances away from home.

Meanwhile, how will Chelsea cope without Eden Hazard (who decamped for Real Madrid) in Frank Lampard‘s debut season as a Premier League manager? For starters they’ll need Christian PulisicMason MountCallum Hudson-Odoiand Tammy Abraham to deliver … and deliver fast.

Even with the excellent midfield addition of Tanguy Ndombele and 19-year-old left winger Ryan SessegnonSpurs’ squad still looks a bit too thin to bridge the 27-point gap between them and champions Manchester City last season. 

Manchester United have beefed up their defence with Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. But there are still issues with Paul Pogba, who has been linked to Real Madrid, though he remains at Old Trafford (for now). United also sold Romelu Lukaku to Inter, and while the Belgian international is hardly a world-beater, he does score goals — a responsibility that will fall on the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and out-of-form and out-of-favor Alexis Sanchez. It’s against this backdrop that we’ll learn if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a good enough manager to turn the club around in the post-Alex Ferguson era, something David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho failed to do.

Manchester United should also be concerned with the clubs chasing them. Take Leicester, which enters its first full season under Brendan Rodgers and will be well worth watching. Could they challenge for a Top 6 spot? Don’t rule it out with the likes of Youri Tielemans and James Maddison supplying marksman Jamie Vardy in front of goal.

West Ham, irritatingly inconsistent last season, have made a couple of big signings and could finish in the Top 8.

Everton have signed the exciting Juventus teenager Moise Kean, but will miss Idrissa Gueye in midfield. With a posh new stadium on its way, it’s vital that the Toffees find themselves at least in contention for a cup.

Wolves were superb last season, but needed to boost their squad depth more with a busy Europa League workload this time around.

TRANSFERS

Why did Prem teams spend less this window?

Why were Chelsea given a transfer ban?

Elsewhere, Crystal Palace’s fate may depend on whether they keep their match-winning winger, Wilfried Zaha, while Watford have a streetwise mid-table look about them.

Manager Steve Bruce inherits the poison chalice at Newcastle, where turmoil is a way of life under owner Mike Ashley. Bruce needs new £40m man Joelinton to be a hit, otherwise Newcastle might find themselves in a relegation fight again.

Southampton were galvanised by manager Ralph Hasenhuttl last season, and if Nathan RedmondDanny Ings and James Ward-Prowse all perform well, they might surprise.

Eddie Howe always keeps Bournemouth clear of trouble, the football equivalent of defying gravity, and with Callum Wilson and David Brooks around that trend is likely to continue. Likewise, you sense that Sean Dyche’s band of brothers at Burnley have too much grit to go down.

But it might be tougher for Brighton, where Graham Potter takes over from Chris Hughton. There’s a desire to play sexier football, but do they have the players to do it? Doubtful.

What of the three promoted clubs? Norwich must hope the top scorer in the Championship, Teemu Pukki, raises his game even higher, and the club has several good youngsters. But staying up? It will be tough.Chris Wilder has managed in all four divisions, so he won’t be daunted by the Premier League Sheffield United. It’s whether he has enough quality at his disposal to stay afloat.

Aston Villa have splashed the cash, but their shrewdest moves might be signing under-rated keeper Tom Heaton for £8m and keeping their playmaker Jack Grealish.

Predictions are there to make fools of us, but I reckon this is Liverpool’s year to win the title (I expect City to come in second, followed by Spurs in third and Arsenal grabbing that last Champions League spot) with Brighton, Norwich and Sheffield United leading contenders for the drop. Top scorer? If he stays fit, look no further than Harry Kane at Tottenham.

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic is not your wonderboy anymore

Aug 2, 2019Sam BordenESPN global sports correspondent

Christian Pulisic is but 20 years old and the number of effusive words already written about him is staggering.

His classic speed. His majestic acceleration. His touch, which allows him to keep the ball so close to his feet that defenders can only trip or wave at him as he flies past. The near clairvoyance with which he finds space amid a thicket of defenders near the goal. The way he shoots, like an archer. The way he sets his jaw, like a bouncer.

To be clear, the enthusiasm is warranted. Christian Pulisic is the most talented player in American soccer history. And, should he pull it off, what he is about to do — that is, play for Chelsea in the English Premier League — will be one of the most impressive feats in American sports history. Yes, Tim Howardplayed for Manchester United, but he was a goalkeeper; and yes, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan made the move to the EPL as well, but they debuted at smaller clubs in Fulham and Everton.

Pulisic is different. By joining Chelsea, he is the first American aiming to star for one of the game’s largest clubs. Nearly half the population of the planet watches the Premier League, more than 3 billion people a season. If Pulisic, a young, fresh-faced American, succeeds — if he scores and dazzles and captivates fans in the U.S. and Europe and China and India and all over Africa — it changes the calculus on him. His ceiling isn’t Landon Donovan anymore. It’s Lionel Messi.

On a dank day in Dortmund, Germany, this spring, I meet Pulisic at a restaurant in the city center. He is dressed Euro-casual, in tight jeans and a black hoodie. I notice the sweatshirt right away because it has words written in circles on the sleeves.”It’s from the Uninterrupted guys,” he says. “LeBron started this thing with ‘More Than an Athlete,’ and they sent me one.”Pulisic typically has presented himself as more quiet than brash, but knowing the move he’s about to make, the sweatshirt makes me wonder if something has changed. It wouldn’t be crazy. Science tells us that if a person picks up two objects at the same time and they have identical weights but different sizes, the larger object is the one that will actually seem lighter. (It’s true: Try it with an iPhone and a Kindle.)This phenomenon has to do with the incredible power of human expectations: We expect the bigger thing to be heavier, so it feels lighter. In sports, the work of becoming a legend is the same either way, but if you make it look bigger, then actually doing the lifting might feel easier. Many superstars have done it this way: Tiger Woods when he said “Hello, world”; LeBron when he welcomed comparisons to Michael Jordan before he was out of high school.So maybe Pulisic has decided he wants the attention and limelight and microphones that will come at Chelsea. Maybe he is ready to stand up and make a grander statement on, say, pay equity in soccer or the development model in the United States. Maybe he wants to speak.”You’re part of it then?” I ask Pulisic about Uninterrupted. His forehead crinkles. His eyes drop.”Um, not like part of it,” he says. “I support it, I guess you could say.” Later, he explains that the fame and the platform might be the bit about his Chelsea move that most challenges him, because he doesn’t particularly like being famous.Fair enough, I tell him, except he just made a career move that guarantees the greatest scrutiny an American soccer player has ever received. He sighs.”It’s definitely one of the hardest parts of my life,” he says, stressing that he really does appreciate having fans who support him and really does understand why people stop him for a selfie or an autograph.”I just hope people realize it’s tougher for some of us,” he says. His voice lowers. “At times, you just want to be alone.”

I have schnitzel, Pulisic has a salad, and then he leads me through the Borussia Dortmund locker room at the team’s stadium. He stops in front of his locker and explains, with a touch of wistfulness, that when he saw his jersey hanging there for the first time in 2016, it was the “coolest thing in the world.”Outside on the field, standing in front of the towering south stand where 25,000 fans crowd together to form the so-called Yellow Wall during games, he almost giggles as he reminisces about the noise in the stadium after a goal.”You hear the stadium announcer yell ‘Christian!’ and then everyone yells your last name back,” he says, cocking his head as though it is echoing right now. “I mean, scoring a last-minute goal in front of this wall, and you see the beer flying everywhere and …”His voice trails off. Leaving for Chelsea might have been a fairly straightforward business decision for Pulisic, but the departure from Dortmund is difficult. Dortmund was a haven for Pulisic, a place to develop his game and discover how he wanted to present himself as an athlete. In soccer terms, Dortmund was Pulisic’s boyhood home.Club scouts found him when he was 15, smitten after watching Pulisic play at a U.S. youth national team tournament in Turkey. They saw then what Chelsea officials see now: a soft, silken touch more European than American. For Dortmund, which has a renowned youth development academy, he seemed a perfect fit.”We only sign players from foreign countries if we’re extremely confident that he’s becoming a player for the professional team,” Lars Ricken, Dortmund’s youth coordinator, tells me at the team’s training facility, adding that he sees Pulisic as one of the club’s biggest success stories.Pulisic arrived in Germany from Hershey, Pennsylvania, when he was 16. He initially struggled with school — to this day, he says, he’s still not sure what classes he attended at first since he didn’t understand a word of German at the time — but blossomed quickly on the field.Many soccer analysts say success at the highest levels of the sport comes down to millimeters. If the space between the ball and a player’s foot is much wider than that, he isn’t truly in control of it. Pulisic’s gap, even as a teenager and even when he was sprinting, was minuscule. He was called up to Dortmund’s first team in less than a year. “We don’t buy stars,” Ricken says now, with obvious pride. “We build them.”Pulisic became the youngest non-German to ever score in the Bundesliga (he celebrated by dabbing). Then he became the youngest Dortmund player to ever play in the Champions League. He appeared in 127 games over four seasons for Dortmund and helped the team win the German Cup in 2017.Along the way, he hung on to plenty of his American tendencies — “I remember him driving like two hours to Frankfurt to get burritos sometimes,” says Dortmund winger Jacob Bruun Larsen, his former roommate — but he also worked to connect with the city and the fans. Instead of sloughing off the language barrier, he embraced it, practicing his German to the point where he was able to do interviews on television. His grammar wasn’t perfect, but the effort endeared him to the team’s supporters.They loved that he tried, loved that he put his head down and grinded in the blue-collar image of Dortmund players who came before him. He trained rigorously and diligently. He battled against juggernaut Bayern Munich. He scored important goals, like the gorgeous lob over Benfica’s goalkeeper in the Champions League. He also suffered through one of the worst weeks in the club’s history. In 2017, as the team traveled from its hotel to the stadium, its bus was struck by explosives planted by a deranged fan.

Pulisic has rarely spoken about that episode, and his eyes soften as he recounts the fear he felt when the windows of the bus exploded and rockets of glass flew everywhere. “We were just going to a normal game, like always, and there was just a really loud bang,” he says. “It was so loud, I couldn’t hear anything. I was confused.”

He pauses. “I just remember [Dortmund goalkeeper] Roman Burki next to me grabbed me and pulled me under the table because he probably recognized what was going on before I did. We were just so scared.”

Pulisic looks away, his voice slowing down. “And then I hear Marc screaming. … He was right across from me. … And I see blood. … And he’s yelling for the doctor. And everyone’s screaming at the bus driver, ‘Driver, keep going!'”Marc Bartra, a defender, was struck by the glass and had shards embedded in his arm. He underwent emergency surgery that night. There were no other serious physical injuries among the players, but the emotional fallout from the episode was significant. Pulisic was 18, living on his own in Germany.e had to deal with knowing someone had tried to kill him and his friends. He had to deal with staying at the same hotel before another game. He had to deal with getting back on the team bus without feeling his skin crawl. He had to figure out how to process it.It was a hyperintense event within a hyperspeed maturation. Pulisic learned how to shop for groceries in Dortmund, how to cook for himself in Dortmund, how to get ready for work each day in Dortmund. After the bus attack, he learned how to confront his own demons and move on from a nightmare in Dortmund.”I’ve changed a lot,” he says at one point, “a lot on the soccer field but maybe even more off the field.”As we walk back up from the locker room, he looks around and says, “In a lot of ways, I grew up here.”

Pulisic decided to leave Dortmund on Jan. 2. Chelsea shipped $73 million to the German club, making Pulisic the most expensive American player sold in soccer history. (It’s not close either: Defender John Brooks is second after his $22.5 million jump from Hertha Berlin to Wolfsburg in 2017; Dempsey’s shift from Fulham to Tottenham in 2012 cost Spurs only $9.6 million.)

To Pulisic, the move is part of a progression, the obvious next step on his path. It is natural to him, expected even. In fact, the most animated I see him get over the course of our conversations is when I mention how he has often been called a “wonderboy” by broadcasters and fans and analysts, a term that was originally flattering but now seems to strike him as borderline demeaning.”The reason I just don’t like to hear it anymore is because I feel like now I’ve been a part of this enough,” he says. “And I think I’ve earned my spots in teams and shouldn’t just be looked at as just a prodigy.”He takes a breath. “I don’t see myself as that label anymore. It’s just not how I feel.”Pulisic is 20. Kylian Mbappe, star of France’s 2018 World Cup win, is also 20 and isn’t called a wonderboy or a prodigy — he’s just a superstar. At this stage of his career, Pulisic says, he doesn’t want to be compared to other players his age; he just wants to be compared to other players.

That, I assure him, will happen quickly and often in the Premier League. But Pulisic will always reckon with a different contextual comparison because of his nationality. It doesn’t especially matter that Mbappe is French when considering his value as a player; France has produced plenty of international stars and will produce more. Pulisic, though, is playing as the face (and legs and feet) of American soccer. If he fails, it isn’t clear when another American will have a chance like this.That reality is no doubt part of why the initial reaction to Pulisic’s Chelsea move, at least from outsiders, has been tempered with a fair bit of caution. While Chelsea is a club teeming with stature and success, it is nonetheless known as one of Europe’s great powder kegs. Its owner, Roman Abramovich, is a notoriously erratic Russian oligarch who has made 14 managerial changes in 16 years and has cultivated a culture of turnover at Chelsea that a former team employee once described to me as a “combustible nightmare.”

What that means for Pulisic is that he will be playing under (no surprise) another new Chelsea manager, Frank Lampard, who was a longtime star player for the club but has only one season of coaching experience. Pulisic also will be charged, at least in part, with replacing Eden Hazard, a Belgian wizard who is generally considered one of the 10 best players in the game. (Hazard left Chelsea for Real Madrid after seven seasons.)Add in a transfer ban that means Chelsea isn’t allowed to sign more players for a year — ratcheting up the heat on the current crop even more — and it creates a set of circumstances that are, as Donovan says when we meet up this spring to talk about Pulisic, “concerning to me.”Donovan had a solid spell playing abroad himself, but he really built his legacy on his work with the U.S. national team and in Major League Soccer. Pulisic’s task, he says, is something far greater. “I can see it being a massive home run for him,” Donovan says. “[But] Chelsea spends a lot of money on a lot of players. They have money forever. They can spend $70 million to bring in Pulisic, and if it doesn’t work right away, it’s no problem. They can move on to the next player.”He shrugs. “He’s not going to be afforded as much leeway if things don’t go well as he would at a different club.”Stu Holden, a former national team forward who played with Bolton Wanderers for four years, says the same, calling Chelsea a club with “rich history and tradition” that is also “unstable” and “a bit of a mess.”Even Jurgen Klinsmann, the German legend and former U.S. national team head coach who gave Pulisic his first international call-up, isn’t totally sold. He praises Pulisic for “jumping into the colder water” but then adds, “I thought maybe another one or two years in Dortmund wouldn’t have been wrong.”What they are all expressing, in one way or another, is the uncomfortable certainty that it will not be enough for Pulisic just to shine with Chelsea; he will have to shine quickly. As Donovan says, there is little doubt about Pulisic’s place when it comes to the U.S. national team — “For the next decade, he’s going to be the most important player” — but it is not so easy to say the same for Chelsea.Could Pulisic step right in and thrive? Absolutely. Lampard says Pulisic is the kind of player “who wants to take people on, the sort of player the fans are going to like,” while longtime defender David Luiz says he believes Pulisic “is going to have a great future with us.” And maybe it really will be that easy. But could Pulisic struggle or get injured or find himself on the bench or out on loan to some smaller club? Could we look up next spring and wonder where he went? The list of talented young players who went to England and had that result isn’t exactly short.Nevertheless, Pulisic seems undaunted. He talks about normal nerves and overwhelming excitement and confidence and verve, delivering the sort of steely assurance that is both accepting and dismissive at the same time. Even when I mention the notoriously harsh British news media, he barely wavers.Pulisic sees this move in soccer terms and little else, and that perspective is probably both healthy and correct. Even the notion that his nationality matters, that being American might help Chelsea sell a few (thousand) more jerseys in the U.S., might be overblown. Chelsea signed Pulisic for the same reason any club signs any player: They think he can help them win. They see his creativity and his ability to play far up the field in Lampard’s expected formation. They see the way he chases in the attacking third and the way he pings passes from sideline to sideline.”I know what kind of player I am,” Pulisic says. “And they know exactly the same.”Could he have waited? Could he have stayed in Dortmund? Could he have held out for a situation that didn’t involve an unpredictable Russian owner and a superstar whose departure dials up the pressure? Maybe. But it’s also hard to say that with a straight face.”Nobody would turn down that offer, right?” Donovan says.Done with being compared to his own potential, Pulisic is going to Chelsea to stand on his own. “I know I’m ready for this,” he says.The game ended on an October night in 2017, and Christian Pulisic saw an assistant coach walking toward him. His throat was sore from shouting. It was steamy at the stadium in Couva, Trinidad, the air hanging heavy. The rain-soaked field was so waterlogged, he heard the squish of the coach’s shoes.The United States had just lost a game it should have won, a game in which it needed only a tie to qualify for the World Cup. Pulisic didn’t know whether other teams might have bailed out the Americans by losing too. He looked at the approaching assistant hopefully.”We’re not going,” the coach said. Fast. Blunt. Brutal. Pulisic rocked back. In the locker room, team staffers rushed to move out the champagne and beer that were supposed to be part of the celebration. On the field, Pulisic crouched down and cried.He had scored. He had pushed. He had run. He had never considered, not for a second, that it wouldn’t be enough. He had never considered, not for a second, that he wouldn’t be playing for his country in the biggest tournament in sports.As he changed out of his uniform, teammates cried around him. On the flight the next morning, there were wet eyes again. The wound from that evening blistered over and lingered, jabbing at Pulisic for weeks.”It was,” he says now, “the worst night of my pro career, by far.”Nearly two years later, though, the images from that night’s failure — Pulisic burying his head in his hands, pulling his jersey over his eyes, tears streaming down his face — seem blurred by time and circumstance.In July, instead of going on the post-Gold Cup vacation that many other top players take, Pulisic joins his Chelsea teammates in Japan on a preseason tour. He signs autographs and takes selfies with fans outside the team hotel. He makes an appearance at a local store with Lampard. He laughs during pre-practice stretching with Luiz. He juggles a ball while wearing a new style of studs that have his name splashed across the heel. The coverage, not surprisingly, is breathless: There are articles about his jersey number (he picks 24) and even a full recap, with video, of a thundering goal he scores during a practice drill.On the field, Lampard eases Pulisic into the group. He comes on as a substitute and plays a half-hour against a Japanese team, making a few good runs without real result. A few days later, against Barcelona, he is a dervish, whipping runs from both sides and showing no fear as he goes up against the world’s most celebrated side. In Austria a week later, he gives Chelsea fans an early glimpse of what’s to come: He wins a penalty, pulls off a glorious nutmeg and scores two goals, showing off his superior touch as Chelsea goes up 3-0 inside 28 minutes.

These are only friendlies. The real run of show begins next week, when Pulisic officially enters the most watched soap opera in the world. The fans will be thrumming, Lampard will be stalking the touchline and supernovas like Paul Pogba will be on the opposite side, whizzing along at breakneck pace and demanding a level of excellence from Pulisic that he has never needed to reach so often. It will be fierce. It will be ambitious. It will be daring. “I’m going to go in there,” he says, “and play with my same attacking style. I think I’m going to fit in really well.”

Two years ago, after that awful Trinidad game, a belief like that felt so far away. At 19, it was hard to be patient, and Pulisic left that night frustrated and antsy, wanting to know how the loss would affect the U.S. team, wanting to know what all of it meant for his chances to move to a bigger club. Two years ago, he wanted to know if his moment would ever come.

 

Wiebe: Can anyone stop LAFC? Plus four more questions ahead of this MLS weekend

August 9, 20191:57PM EDTAndrew Wiebe Senior Host and Producer

A couple housekeeping notes before we get to your regularly scheduled Week 23 preview.First, I think The Movement is the best thing we do at MLSsoccer.com. It’s an intoxicating mixture of the game, the people who love it, the culture that surrounds it and the curiosity and empathy soccer can inspire in all of us. Calen Carr puts his heart and soul into the show, and I cannot recommend the latest episode – Football & Faith: Being Muslim in MLS – enough.Second, I got the lowdown on Wayne Rooney’s decision to swap D.C. United for Derby County from The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer and the full rundown of MLS transfer deadline day from former Montreal Impact technical director Adam Braz on Thursday’s Extratime. Now’d be a good time to choose a segment to listen to before you continue on.

Now, onto the five questions:

Can anyone stop LAFC?

The New York Red Bulls will give it a try on Sunday to conclude Week 23 (10 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & streaming info). Only the Portland Timbers have won at Banc of California Stadium this season, and that was in the U.S. Open Cup. In other words, good luck!  Honestly, just give LAFC the Supporters’ Shield already and be done with it. They’re the league’s best team, and it’s not particularly close. They’ve got a 10-point advantage on the East-leading Union with two games in hand, a 13-point head start on Atlanta with one game in hand and a 14-point lead in the West. They’re on pace to shatter every MLS record for single-season dominance. Bob Bradley won’t let them get comfortable, either. Shield first, then MLS Cup. Let’s put it this way, I will print this column out and eat it if they aren’t lifting the Shield come Oct. 6 (or more likely even sooner). I do not think LAFC will be stopped, in the regular season at least.  I, like most of the MLS All-Stars I talked to in Orlando, always make time to watch Bradley’s team play. The Red Bulls have plenty going on, too. Here’s what I’ll be watching come Sunday night:

Which Adama Diomande will we see? Christian Ramirez is gone. Time for the dominant Diomande from a year ago to come back and give LAFC yet another best-in-class goal threat. In case you weren’t paying attention, the 29-year-old is starting to get there (four goals, two assists in the last five games). Prior to that, though, he’d scored once since March 10. Add a rampant Diomande to Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi and LAFC are liable to start dropping five spots on everyone.

Will Aaron Long be distracted by his own transfer saga? Long is a “foundational piece” for the Red Bulls. He wants to move to Europe. The Red Bulls don’t want to sell him. These things happen. Thing is, the scoreline can start adding up quickly against LAFC if you’re even a little bit preoccupied by anything other than Vela and Co. Long’s a professional, and I don’t for one second question his effort. He’s human though, just like the rest of us.

How could you miss Zlatan vs. Wayne Rooney?

You can’t. This is probably our only opportunity to see the two legends clash in MLS (Sunday, 7:30 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & streaming info), barring an unlikely (but not impossible) MLS Cup matchup. Unlike LAFC-Red Bulls, which East Coasters will have to stay up to watch, you won’t even have to sacrifice any sleep. Make time.I already wrote about Rooney and D.C. United this week. My hope is that with his future set, Rooney returns to his MLS best and drags Luciano Acosta along with him. Having Ola Kamara to lead the line ought to put LuchoRoo in more comfortable positions. Last fall was special, and I want one more taste of the dynamic duo before we bid adieu to the both of them, assuming Acosta signs elsewhere as a free agent. It may not happen. D.C. have won twice since May 12.As for the Galaxy, I’ve got nothing but respect and admiration for general manager Dennis te Kloese. He stayed patient, he got creative and he made sure Cristian Pavon ended up in Los Angeles. As Matt Doyle pointed out this week, he’s still got a team that mostly looks “meh” and remains over reliant on Zlatan, which isn’t the worst thing in the world if we’re being honest.Then again, said Zlatan-reliant team missed the playoffs last year – sorry to bring up Decision Day, Galaxy supporters – and truthfully nobody is safe in the Western Conference other than LAFC.Either of these teams could win MLS Cup. Either could end up the biggest collective disappointment of 2019. Either Zlatan or Rooney could do something that goes down in MLS history. Only one way to find out. Just watch the game.

Will New York City FC take advantage of their games in hand?

Same question, different team every year. Over in the Western Conference, the Timbers are in the same boat, only they play 10 straight home games.Thursday was touch and go. The blue side of New York would have dropped points to Houston had Taty Castellanos, he of seven goals and three assists in just over 1,000 minutes at the age of 20, not delivered late to seal a dramatic home win in a weather-delayed match at Yankee Stadium.Those were an important three points in New York City FC’s quest for at the very least a home game in the playoffs. It was, by definition, one of their games in hand, a midweek match in which no other teams played. They’ll have three more home midweek matches the rest of the way, all opportunities to climb the table in exchange for less turnaround time for weekend games.Now, you’ve still got to win games in hand to make them count, and then you’ve still got find a way to recover for Saturday and Sunday and get resutls there too when the schedule starts getting busy.This Sunday will be a good test for the rest of the campaign. Can NYCFC bounce back? Did Torrent manage his roster well? The good news is that he was able to rest the likes of Maxi Moralez and Anton Tinnerholm ahead of Sunday’s trip to Mercedes Benz Stadium (3:55 pm ET | ESPN — Full TV & streaming info).

Which players will I have my eye on?

Xavier Arreaga (Seattle Sounders) – I’m not able to watch a game casually and tell you in great detail about the actions of one player. I have to be more intentional about it. There’s no Chad Marshall (or Roman Torres) to bail the Sounders out anymore. They need Arreaga to come good. So far, in four starts, he’s made big plays and also allowed some. I’m planning on watching the 24-year-old Ecuadorian closely on Saturday when the Sounders host Teal BunburyGustavo Bou and the Revs. He’s part of the club’s long-term spine, after all.Dom Dwyer (Orlando City) – More on the Lions below. Here’s what Doyle wrote in his Tiers of MLS column this week: “Live by the mercurial striker, die by the mercurial striker. The season’s probably done, but if Dom suddenly gets hot (he’s entirely capable of scoring 10 goals in their last 10 games), then we could still see this team in the postseason.” I’m rooting for Dwyer to make it interesting in the East.Darwin Quintero (Minnesota United) – Is it just me, or does Quintero look a bit …  disinterested? Apart from the U.S. Open Cup, in which he leads the tournament in scoring, the Colombian has two goals and two assists in MLS play since April 19. The heady days of March are long gone. Quintero doesn’t seem comfortable with the players and movement around him. If Minnesota are going to keep climbing upward and perhaps even make some noise in the playoffs, they need Quintero to rediscover his 2018 form, starting Saturday in Dallas.

What’s the must-watch ESPN+ game of the weekend?

Easy one for me: Toronto FC hosting Orlando City on Saturday at 7:30 pm ET. Why? It’s a true six-pointer, of which there will be many the rest of the way.If Toronto FC win this one and some results go their way, they’ll jump the line and be a win or two away from the possibility of hosting a first-round match in the playoffs. That’s good! This team has enough talent, including an influx of TAM players this summer, to credibly believe they can challenge for their second MLS Cup in three years.If Toronto lose it, the gap between 7th and 8th could grow to four points, depending on the Revs’ result in Seattle … and the Reds would be tied with Orlando on 32 points. That’s bad! There’s already pressure on Greg Vanney, and the prospect of another year outside the playoff field (with one extra place available) would be a bitter pill to swallow.For Orlando, the pressure’s not as high, but it’s not nonexistent.The Lions have never made the playoffs. They just lost at home to a rival they’ve still never beaten in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal. Josef Martinez laughed at them on Insta stories. The non-playoff consolation prize is dead, and a bunch of guys are playing for their jobs. Teams below the line can’t wait around for results to come their way. Time to go for it.Enjoy the weekend! We’ll see you after LAFC-RBNY (or Monday morning on your work second screen) to wrap up Week 23 on Matchday Central.

Wow this is dead on spot – I mentioned this last week – after watching the LAFC vs LA Galaxy and Portland vs LA Galaxy last week and LA vs Atlanta this week -the Play in MLS has been tremendous while the ICC games have been – well exhibition games.  Not sure they felt that way in the past – but they feel that way now in the 3rd season the ICC and I the tix simply aren’t worth the hundreds of dollars they are charging to see these great teams play Exhibition matches.  The ICC needs to go back to have a Championship and trophy of some sort – and they have to lower the ticket prices – or people are not going to go.  Also they need to go to new locations across the country – hopefully to fields with natural grass.

CHANGE IS AFOOT – How MLS MANAGED TO OVERSHADOW THE ICC THIS SEASON 

There has been a lot of soccer star power visiting the United States recently, whichever way you look at it.  Reigning Champions League winner Liverpool danced its way onto American shores, and even played in the first ever soccer game at Notre Dame Stadium. Real Madrid, winner of the three previous editions of Europe’s finest club competition, was also here, playing in the International Champions Cup.  There was the German Bundesliga champion, Bayern Munich, and runner-up Borussia Dortmund (which knocked off Liverpool in that aforementioned Notre Dame matchup), English Premier League notable Arsenal and a collection of leading Italian, Portuguese and Mexican clubs. There was even a Madrid derby between Real and hated neighbors Atletico that produced 10 goals, four of them for Atletico’s brilliantly unpredictable Diego Costa, in a 7-3 win.

Yet once soccer thoughts turned away from this summer’s Women’s World Cup, an upset of significant standing took place in the States. Despite all the celebrity-studded visitors from overseas playing preseason matches around North America, Major League Soccer has provided the most relevant and noteworthy examples of the beautiful game for the past few weeks. “Our teams are giving our fans genuine, competitive, high-quality soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told me by telephone. “We are not paying too much attention to the (exhibition games).”

Whereas the arrival of top European teams, especially those from the English Premier League, was greeted with great excitement in past years, the tide seems to have turned – sharply. To wit, this summer, there were only 11 ICC games in the U.S., down from 17 in 2018. Instead, American fans have flocked to their domestic league.  (its because those Exhibition Games cost too dam much too-OBC)

 

 

The Notre Dame game between Liverpool and Dortmund was half-full, with an attendance of 40,361. When Mexican giant Chivas took on Portugal’s Benfica at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, only 15,724 turned up. And even the best game on paper, Real against Bayern, did not sell out Houston’s NRG Stadium, with 60,343 in attendance. Overall, attendance for the 11 ICC matches played in the U.S. was down 35% from 2018 and 47% from its peak in 2016.
While ICC attendance slumped, MLS, by a happy coincidence, produced some of its most exciting and remarkable games of the campaign.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick and then provided a swath of headline fodder by taunting a rival assistant after spearheading the LA Galaxy to a memorable 3-2 victory over crosstown foe LAFC in mid-July. Last Friday, that league-leading LAFC side outdueled defending champion Atlanta United 4-3 in a thriller that saw six of the goals scored in an exhilarating 18-minute spell.

And fans are turning out for MLS games. The Galaxy victory over LAFC was played before a capacity crowd of 27,000 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. LAFC has averaged more than capacity of 22,000 for its 10 home games this season at Banc of California Stadium. Atlanta United FC leads MLC in attendance with an average home crowd of 53,000. “The days when watching a European game and an MLS game felt like two different sports are long gone,” Chan Walker, a Los Angeles data analyst and soccer fan told me. Walker watched Bayern Munich v. Arsenal, then saw that Galaxy/LAFC game three days later.  “The big European teams are still stronger but when they come over here it is hard to believe the players truly care about the outcome,” he added. “The MLS games are fiercely fought and highly compelling. I have to be honest; the MLS experience was a lot more fun and felt a lot more real.”

 

 

Walker’s comments summed up the most common knock on the preseason exhibitions — that they are just that, exhibitions. Key players are often rested or play limited minutes. Reserve and youth players are given a chance to prove themselves, and, in extreme cases, the lineups carry virtually no correlation to the true strength of the squad. Meanwhile, MLS has stood out this summer through a combination of skill, top-notch competition, and sheer passion — a passion that has become the hallmark of the season.

MLS does have an exhibition of its own this week, of course: the MLS All-Star Game pitting a composite team of the league’s best players against Atletico. The game will be played Wednesday in Orlando and will be broadcast on FS1.  Garber likes his league’s All-Star experience compared to either the NBA or NHL version or the NFL’s Pro Bowl. Atletico will use a full-strength lineup, and Garber believes the contest can provide further evidence of MLS’ increasing strength. “It is a celebration of all the good things about our league, the competitiveness and strength of our players — and featuring an excellent opponent,” Garber added. “Someone like Zlatan could play in any league in the world. He is showing that week-in, week-out, and we have a lot of players who are performing at an incredibly high level.”

MLS continues to look toward expansion, even with the franchise fee having risen to $200 million. Now in its 24th year with 24 teams, the league will feature 27 clubs by 2021 with more likely on the way.

MLS isn’t the NFL or the NBA, and neither is it one of the top European soccer leagues. But it is here, it is growing, and it is stronger than ever. Outshining this summer’s latest batch of touring celebrity teams is the latest piece in the puzzle – and an important one.

 

 

Here’s what others have said…

John Cross, Daily Mirror: “It feels very different now. There isn’t the same feel about it. In the past you could sense the excitement, there would be lots of fans lining up outside training. Maybe it is too much of a good thing. When the Premier League teams go to Asia, there is still that fanatical kind of welcome. And when you have big names like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and [former England forward] Wayne Rooney doing big things in MLS, that is going to generate attention.”

Alfredo Relaño, Diario AS: “The International Champions Cup, which started out aspiring to be the main football attraction of the summer, is starting to feel a little flat. I can see some clubs have started to turn their back on it — among them, Barça and Manchester City, champions of LaLiga and the Premier League, two of the biggest and best leagues in the world — the best leagues for many. What Charlie Stillitano envisaged would be the biggest annual sports showpiece event of the summer — which on the sly, would also serve as a veiled endorsement for the creation of a mooted European Super League, now seems to have wilted.”

Ryan Bailey, Yahoo! Sports“It no longer has the feel of a competitive tournament. Although there is a points table for the tournament, which technically determines a winner (Tottenham finished first last year), the lack of a final takes away the facade of competitiveness. The International Champions Cup is no longer a ‘cup.’ It is a collection of loosely related friendlies.”

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

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

 

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7/26/19  MLS takes Center Stage, ICC Winding Down, Goalkeeping Training Mon/Wed, Indy 11 win

So MLS takes center stage next week as they present the MLS All-Star game live from Orlando Wednesday night on FS1 at 8 pm.  LAFC superstar Carlos Vela has been voted by fans on Twitter as captain of the MLS All-Star team, set to face Atletico Madrid in the 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. The Spanish giants will face the best of MLS at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on Wednesday, July 31 (8 pm ET | FS1, UniMás). Vela, who is contributing goals at a historic pace this season, leads the league in goals (21) and is second in assists (12) after just 20 appearances. He is on pace to break the league’s single-season record for goals (31), set by Josef Martinez last year. It’s the second consecutive season that Vela will captain the MLS All-Stars. The other candidates for the armband were Wayne RooneyNani and Chris Wondolowski.  Other huge games this week include Friday night’s showdown between this season’s top team LAFC and last season’s Champ Atlanta United at 10 pm on FS1.  Atlanta seems to have recovered from the slow start under a new coach – and stand in first in the Eastern Conference while Bob Bradley has his LAFC on a record pace in the West with an MLS best  14-4-3 record.  Saturday night at 10:30 pm on ESPN a surging Portland hosts the LA Galaxy fresh off their thrilling 3-2 thrashing of LAFC behind a hat-trick from Zlatan Ibra.  El Traffico was thrilling as always as the Galaxy continued their domination of LA having never lost to LAFC.  We are over the half-way point of the season now as teams begin to jockey for playoff position.  It was disappointing to see the MLS teams lose 3 of 4 versus Mexico this week in the Leagues Cup but this shot of super cat in the RSL vs Tigres game was worth it.

ICC

So interesting watching the International Champions Cup games this season – the crowds have really fallen off in this 4th season of the competition. I think the combination of ridiculously expensive tickets and the realization that these are really just pre-season practice games – often missing the stars (see Liverpool – without Fermino, Saha or the Pharo) has taken away some of the excitement overall.  Still a good competition – but I have to admit – I have only really watched a couple of the games – this summer.  Still more on the docket over the next few weeks including the huge Madrid Derby with Real Madrid playing Atletico Madrid this Friday night in NJ – on ESPN at 8 pm.  Followed by MLS LAFC vs Atlanta United at 10 on ESPN.

Indy 11

The Indy 11 scored 2 goals in the last 10 minutes to secure a 2-0 victory over Loundoun United Saturday night as over 11,000 fans looked on at Lucas Oil.  Tyler Pasher scored his team leading ___ goal to put things away for our Boys in Blue.  The 11 recorded their 10th shutout of the season behind a stellar performance by GK Evan Newton who replaced CFC GK coach Jordan Farr who had stared the past few games including the last 2 shutouts at home.  Newton had 4 strong saves to help the 11 preserve the home shutout.

Indy Eleven will take to the road the next two weeks with the chance to put some distance between its closest foes in the Eastern Conference table, starting with this Saturday’s meeting against Nashville FC at Nissan Stadium (8:00 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+). After traveling to face North Carolina FC on Saturday, August 3 (7:00 p.m., live on WISH-TV & ESPN+), the Boys in Blue will enjoy a bye week before returning home for back-to-back Sunday affairs against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 18 (Faith & Family Night) and Charlotte Independence on Aug. 25 (“Red Out” Summer Celebration). Tickets for those contests at Lucas Oil Stadium remain available for as little as $15 and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets.

CHS Tryouts

Good luck to those trying out for the CHS girls and boys soccer teams in the next couple of weeks – the ladies have a tourney vs local teams today/Sat at River Road Fields off Hazelldell and tryouts are the first week of Aug.  Both teams tryout Aug 5-7 mornings/6-8 pm at River Road.  Carmel FC coaches/Managers – we are looking for teams to serve as Ballboys/Ballgirls for CHS Girls and CHS Boys Varsity games – please contact the Ole Ballcoach at shanebestsoccer@gmail.com if interested in grabbing a date – they go early so don’t delay.

SPECIAL PRE-SEASON GOALKEEPER TRAINING with Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr – Mon/Wed 7/29 + 7/31

Time to get back in shape whether its for High School Tryouts or getting a jump on the Club Season.  Private GK training with Jordan Farr and his brother who is a College GK Coach in Portland, Oregon Mon after 12:30 or Wed. all day.   If interested please reach out directly to CFC Goalkeeper coach FarrJordn13@gmail.com  or RE: this message.

CFC_GK_Cash

GAMES ON TV

Fri, July 26

6:30 am ESPN                                        Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ICC

10 pm ESPN                                            LAFC vs Atlanta United

Sat, July 27

8 pm ESPN+                                            Chicago Fire vs DC United

10 pm ESPNNews                                 Utah Royals vs NC Courage NWSL

10:30 pm ESPN                                     Portland vs LA Galaxy 

Sun, July 28

3 pm ESPN 2                                           Milan vs Benefica ICC

Wed, July 31

8 pm Fox Sport 1                                MLS All-Star Game vs Atletico Madrid 

Sat, Aug 3

11 am ESPN2                                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Borussia M’gladbach (Johnson)

12:30 pm ESPN2                                     ICC – Man United vs Milan

2:30 pm                                                    Dortmund vs Bayern Munich German Super Cup

5 pm ESPN+                                            Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

7 pm ESPN+                                            NC vs Indy 11

10 pm  ESPN2                                       US Ladies vs Ireland

Sun, Aug 4

10 am ESPN+                                          Liverpool vs Man City (FA Community Shield) 

10 am ESPN+                                         Tottenham vs Inter – ICC

4 pm ESPN                                             Minn United vs Portland Timbers

7:30 pm FS1                                           DC United vs Philly

10 pm FS1                                             Seattle Sounders vs Sporting KC

Tues, Aug 6

7:30 pm ESPN+                                    Orlando City vs Atlanta United (US Open Cup)

Weds, Aug 7

7:30 pm ESPN+                                    Minn United vs Portland Timbers (US Open Cup)

11 pm ESPN News                              Sacramento vs Las Vegas Lights USL

Fri, Aug 9

3 pm NBCSN                                        Liverpool vs Norwich City EPL Starts

International Champions Cup Schedule July 16-Aug 18

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

MLS

Allstar Week Wrap

Captain Carlos: Vela given All-Star armband

ATLUTD gearing up for Vela…and rest of LAFC

Bradley: Josef is the “main challenge” vs. ATL

Week 20 Wrap-up

Dynamo cherishing Beasley like a fine wine

The best storyline in Major League Soccer is…

Dominant LAFC know the going’s about to get tough

Doyle: What we learned from Leagues Cup this week

Former US International Josh Wolff new Austin FC Head Coach

Wiebe: Josh Wolff and Austin FC’s missing piece

MLS Disciplinary: Galaxy-LAFC mass confrontation

Zlatan – I don’t Need to Dream – I am the Dream – ESPNFC 7/18/19

MLS Player Poll

TFC, Impact in 2019 CanChamp semifinals

Doyle: What we learned from Leagues Cup this week

Cat invades RioT, attempts tackle on star player

US Men

Pulisic ‘really happy’ after making Chelsea debut

US to Face Mexico Labor Day Friday on FS1

U.S., Mexico straight to Hex in new CONCACAF format

U.S.’s Johannsson joins Swedish side Hammarby

USMNT way-too-early look at 2022: Pulisic, Adams vital to future, but lack of depth remains a serious issue

U.S. U-17 men’s national team learns 2019 World Cup group

US, Canada, Mexico U17s learn Draw for late Oct World Cup

US U17s led by Sounders Duo

US Women

Secret Deodorant Offers $23K per player to help Equal Pay for US Ladies Team

USWNT get $529K gift from Secret deodorant

Rapino says Controversy helped secure the Title for US – ESPNW Graham Hays

NWSL Attendance is Up as US Players Return

USWNT players draw sellout NWSL crowd to Chicago Red Stars game

Rose Bowl unveils statue in honor of ’99 USWNT

Rapinoe accepts Congress invite for USWNT

US Ladies to face Ireland Aug 3 at 10 pm on ESPN2

13 Year-Old Girl Turns Pro with Portland Thorns

Indy 11

Indy 11 On Road at Nashville Sat

3 Things Week 20

Indy 11 partners with Learfield IMG College Ticket Solutions

Late Magic Leads to 2-0 Win for Indy 11 at Home over Loudoun United

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Sat 9 am Soccer Talk with Greg Rakestraw on 1070 the Fan & 107.5 FM

Goalkeeping

How Liverpool’s Alisson become world’s Best GK and lead Red to CL Glory

Top Saves Africa Cup of Nations

Best Saves from Women’s World Cup

Top 5 Saves World Cup Ladies

Best saves of 2018/19 Europe Season Part 1

WORLD

ICC Attendance Is Way Down Across the US

Africa Cup of Nations Review – Algeria Win

Algeria’s AFCON Title wasn’t pretty but memorable – ESPNFC

Man United – Pogba life and soul of Trip

Juve – Renaldo Still Leader but winning UCL on Sarri

USMNT set to face Mexico in September friendly

Goal.com 1 hour 18 minutes ago

The Americans will get the chance to avenge their Gold Cup defeat when they battle El Tri ahead of Concacaf Nations League play in October.  The United States men’s national team will renew their rivalry with Mexico in a September friendly, U.S. Soccer has announced .The two nations met on July 7 in the Gold Cup final with El Tri emerging triumphant, 1-0, on the strength of a second-half Jonathan Dos Santos goal.Mexico’s victory saw El Tri reclaim the regional crown from the USMNT in the first Gold Cup final between the two nations since 2011.September’s friendly will take place September 6 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where the USMNT last played in 2018 against Brazil in a 2-0 friendly defeat.The match will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and Univision with coverage beginning at 8:30 ET.It is the second announced friendly for El Tri in September, with the Gold Cup winners set to battle Argentina on September 9.The USMNT will be aiming to build off the Gold Cup, where Gregg Berhalter’s first tournament in charge saw them make the final before falling in a close contest with their southern rivals.Mexico, meanwhile, will aim to continue their stellar start under former Argentina and Barcelona head coach Tata Martino, who has won each of his 10 matches since taking the helm of El Tri following winning the MLS Cup with Atlanta United.It will be the 70th meeting between the two nations as the pair gear up for Concacaf Nations League League A play, which the duo will begin in October.The USMNT will compete in Group A against Cuba and Canada, with the Americans opening up October 11 against the Caribbean island and then facing their northern neighbors four days later.Mexico will battle in Group B, opening against Bermuda on October 11 and facing Panama on October 15.Both nations will play return matches against their respective opponents in November to close out the initial round of League A play.The teams will compete for a place in the Nations league semi-finals, given to the respective winners of the four groups, while the bottom team in each group will be relegated.

Rapinoe says controversy helped secure title

11:33 AM ETGraham HaysespnW.com  7/11/`19

Megan Rapinoe said that, far from a distraction to overcome, criticism and controversy during the Women’s World Cup played an important part in propelling the United States to the title.In an interview with ESPN FC, Rapinoe said players rallied together after President Donald Trump tweeted during the tournament that the U.S. captain should win before talking about visiting the White House. Those tweets followed the release of a months-old video in which Rapinoe said she wouldn’t accept an invitation to the White House if the U.S. were to win the World Cup.”If anything, it united everyone around us and united the team around itself,” Rapinoe told ESPN FC. “And it was emboldening in a way.”She added that she didn’t spend much time following the reaction to the controversy in the moment. She also said that the U.S. already possessed ample motivation to win its fourth World Cup title. But coming the same week as a much-anticipated quarterfinal in Paris against host France, a co-favorite among oddsmakers to win the tournament, she contended that the episode brought players together as they began a stretch in which they played three top European opponents in the run-in to lifting the trophy.”It was one of those things that kind of came at this funny moment,” Rapinoe said. “I think it was more of a unifying thing than any sort of distraction.”Teammate Ali Krieger made a public show of support at the time with a tweet criticizing the president, but the game against France on June 28 was the first public appearance for most players since the president’s tweets intensified the controversy two days earlier.Playing a much more defensive style than at any other point in the tournament, the U.S. protected its early lead and withstood a barrage of French attacks in a 2-1 win. Rapinoe suggested it was a collective effort worthy of admiration from even Jose Mourinho — the men’s coach famous for winning major titles with a pragmatic, often defensive approach — who she saw in the stands that day. It was not, in her estimation, the performance of a distracted team”We knew exactly what we wanted to do and what we were going to do to win,” Rapinoe said. “We were sort of all on board in that moment, like, ‘OK, this going to be more of a defensive game. We’re going to counterattack.’ … And if you’re going to beat us, you’re going to have to break down a very organized, committed, disciplined team, which is really hard to do.”

Zlatan has something to tell you: ‘I don’t need to dream. I am the dream.’

Jul 17, 2019   Andrew Corsello, special to ESPN

LOS ANGELES — Early June, morning. Zlatan has just finished wind-sprinting, vomiting and showering (in that order). The hurling — it’s standard. “I need to suffer today,” he tells the LA Galaxy’s physical trainer upon arriving at the team’s facility. Which the trainer took to mean: again.”I need to work,” Zlatan explains. “When I suffer, I feel good.” It’s a theatrical and self-regarding thing to say. He clearly knows it, and knows that I know it, too. Which is why, being Zlatan, he then issues a pirate’s grin and doubles down. “You just missed it! Five minutes ago, I could not breathe, I was throwing up so hard. You see? This is the way I work: very hard. I always say, ‘Let’s drag out the maximum from my body.'”It’s working — and how. Thirty-seven years old, this guy! To behold Zlatan is to pose a series of rhetorical questions. Do you know how old that is for a professional athlete of any stripe? But especially for a soccer player and for a center forward at that? By all rights, Zlatan ought to be a past-tense figure by now, remembered for being the John McEnroe of soccer: touched, insolent, dazzling, infuriating, balletic, mouthy, inventive, clownish, immortal. He blew out his right knee playing for Manchester United in the spring of 2017, for crying out loud. Should have been game over, right?But you know Zlatan. And you know what came next. If you don’t on either count, first: You’ve been off planet. Second: The surname is Ibrahimovic; he’s known in the soccer world as “Ibra” or, simply, Zlatan.

Also, a reminder: On March 29, 2018, Zlatan and his English bulldog flew from his home country of Sweden to California. On the 30th, after being introduced to his new LA Galaxy coaches and teammates and practicing for 20 minutes, he submitted to an examination by a team doctor, who strapped him to a machine, scanned the readout and told him what he already knew. “You’re very tired. You shouldn’t play tomorrow.” On the 31st, in the first-ever El Trafico game against LAFC, Ibra sat on the bench while the home crowd chanted his name. Thunderously. Ceaselessly. Until coach Sigi Schmid couldn’t take it anymore and, 26 minutes into the second half, sent his new No. 9 onto the pitch. Six minutes later, LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller cleared the ball about 70 meters, from the right side of his box. A Galaxy defender headed the ball back over the center circle in a slow, bloopy arc. It took one high bounce, then anoth… no, actually, it didn’t.

Before we go any further, you need to know that what happened next was, is, uniquely Zlatan. Now, in statistical and analytical terms, he’s probably the third-greatest player of this era after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. All three are not only great finishers but great creators who elevate the play of their teammates. Messi’s genius is low to the ground, squirrelly, a quick accretion of darts and scurries dictated by his bat-gene echolocation. Ronaldo’s genius is all about aerial beauty — that perfectly balanced matador’s chassis of his — and his dribbling and, once upon a time, blinding pace. Zlatan’s is a pirate’s genius, full of drunken daring and sword-through-the-Gordian-knot solutions. He possesses an inventiveness, a gleeful and childlike (haters would say childish) willingness to envision superheroic possibilities for himself that is unique in this era, and maybe in the history of the game. Goals that can be described as artful and transcendent, yes, but also as silly, preposterous, wacky, arrogant, jejune and just straight-up stupid.Know this, then, about that El Trafico ball that didn’t take a second bounce because it can be said of countless goals Zlatan has scored since his professional debut with Malmo in 1999: Ninety-nine out of 100 wouldn’t have dared it. Wouldn’t even have thought it. They’d have let that ball settle, controlled it and looked for options. But Ibra took the ball at chest level and volleyed a 41-freaking-meter line drive over Miller’s head and into the back of the net. Six minutes in. Virtually his first touch as a Major League Soccer player after being sidelined for nearly a year.With that one touch, along with a stoppage-time header that helped the Galaxy overcome a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3, Ibra instantly became what he remains today, on the eve of another El Trafico: one of the greatest players in MLS history. And to be clear, we’re not talking “greatest” in the Pele-NASL sense — as in a football deity who was great a long, long time ago on a pitch far, far away in Europe or South America, then came to America to capitalize on his name recognition. Zlatan’s is a present-tense “greatest.””From the moment he arrived, his goal ratio has been ridiculous, nearly one-a-game. And these volleys and bicycles where this 6-foot-5 giant is flipping himself all over the place with the power and control of a 5-foot-5 gymnast? At the age of 37!” says the Galaxy’s technical director, Jovan Kirovski, who played professionally in Europe for more than a decade. “It’s getting to a place where I’m saying, and I know the coaches are saying, ‘Stay high and score goals — don’t worry about chasing!’ But he keeps delivering.””I don’t come here because of what I did before,” Zlatan says. “I come here to demonstrate who I am. I come here to provide.”Provide? An interesting word choice. Not wrong, but not exactly right, either. The first time he uses it, I chalk up its use to the fact that Zlatan’s English is very good but not great — not yet attuned to idiom. But as he continues, not only to use it but to stress it, it becomes clear that he’s fully aware of all the extra-soccer connotations the word carries. In fact, that’s his point: He wants you to know that he’s come to Los Angeles not to score goals, but to give and provide them.”I believe I see things before it happens,” he says.”There are many things about you that don’t make sense,” I reply, nonresponsively, thinking of how odd it is for a muscle-bound guy to have some of the finest needle-threading foot skills the world has seen.”Like the goal against England,” he continues.”I was going to ask you about that next!””You see? I know the future. Now tell me: How many would do that?” He answers before I can: “Only a crazy man!”People will forever argue about which goal is the greatest ever scored. But the greatest volley goal — this is it, right?November of 2012, playing for the Swedish national squad in a friendly against England, Ibra departed this Earth, scoring one goal, then a second, then a third. And then there was the fourth. England goalkeeper Joe Hart ventured outside his box to clear a long ball with his head. Before he could, though, Ibra, who was chasing, did something spooky. He … stopped. Because like all transcendent athletes, he’d seen several seconds into the future. His third eye had solved the chaos math in real time. He knew, not only that Hart would head the ball but precisely where. Which is how Zlatan wound up leaping into the air and bicycling a shot without ever eyeing the goal; without letting the ball bounce; and with his back parallel to and at least 4 feet off the ground — into the goal from 35 meters out. It cleared the crossbar by 1 foot, about two-tenths of a second before a sliding defender could block it.Perhaps the daftest thing about this goal was that it was not a reflex. Ibra had a lot of time — full seconds! — to think it over. The moment is now 7 years old, but Zlatan recalls it in the present tense: “I know he will head the ball. That’s the only chance he has. If he lets the ball go down, I will steal it from him. I have two opportunities. Either I go against him and take away, or I wait for where the ball comes. So when he jumps up, I back off. I know where he will try to put it is behind me … “To think: Yes, this is in my arsenal, fire away. … The delusion, the punk-ass hubris of that! This goal, which even England’s captain, Steven Gerrard, called “the best I’ve ever seen,” remains the ultimate example of Zlatan’s not playing by the rules. Not in the sense that he’s cheating or playing dirty, but that he’s defying the rules of physics, geometry, human physiology, common sense and good taste — and constantly getting away with it.Even so, when Ibra talks of providing, he’s talking about something larger and less manifest than “mere” goals.”[I] Don’t come to MLS because I am ‘Ibrahimovic,'” Ibrahimovic says. “I come because I want to show you what football is. I come because I want to show U.S. what my game is about.”Grandiose? Given! But Zlatan put his money where his mouth is. “I said to Galaxy, we sign this deal now. If you not happy in one month, we can cancel, and I go.” This would seem tall if there weren’t a precedent. When he was no longer able to provide after blowing out his knee, Ibrahimovic offered to reimburse Manchester United for the games he missed.Eventually, it dawns on me that what Zlatan wishes to provide is nothing less than “Zlatan” — in quotes, fully meta — and everything that entails. Not just his beautiful game but also his unbeautiful game: his long history of cards and bans for unleashing his ire, fists and feet on opponents and teammates. Only when fans see the whole Zlatan package, the lovely and the ugly, can they comprehend the passion and anger he feels for the game.

The weeks preceding our early June interview had been pure Zlatan. In May, the ugly: He served a two-game suspension for grabbing NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson by the neck. (“Ah! That clown fall down fainting and almost died, and I said, ‘Let’s call the ambulance because you are dying!’ Then he send a picture to MLS showing a scratch on his neck! Listen, I’ve played 800 games. I’ve played against animals that almost broke my legs. But what happens in the game stays in the game. In Europe, if he send a picture of a scratch on his neck? They eat him alive.”)And then, on June 2, the beautiful: In a 2-1 upset loss to the New England Revolution, Ibra provided one of the most crazy-stupid-brilliant goals of his career. Late in the game, with his back to the goal, he settled a cross on his chest, flicked it up just so and bicycled the rock — hard, a missile — home.He dissects each of these moments with the same evangelical zeal.”I gave you the last goal, yes?” he says.Me? You gave it to me? I think, then remember this is the guy who, upon signing with the Galaxy, took out an ad in the Los Angeles Times that read “Dear Los Angeles, You’re Welcome” with a hand-signed “Zlatan” at the bottom.”Yes,” Zlatan says, answering his own question. “That was good.”Zlatan will be the first to tell you that Zlatan has never fit in. That the essence of Zlatan is outsiderness and, with it, a ceaseless and nourishing anger. The son of émigrés, a Bosnian caretaker (dad) and Croatian cleaner (mom), Ibrahimovic was born and raised in Sweden. He was, by his own admission, a gangly, dark-eyed, raven-haired, big-nosed, lisping punk. He fought, he stole (candy, bikes, cars, whatever), he footballed, he didn’t get along.”I’ve been at this school 33 years,” his former headmistress told BBC Sport in 2013, “and Zlatan is easily in the top five of the most unruly pupils we have ever had. He was the No. 1 bad boy, a one-man show, a prototype of the kind of child that ends up in serious trouble.””School was OK,” Zlatan says. “I got free food.””They made me feel different,” he continues. “Soccer in Sweden was only Swedish players with Swedish background. And then I come — big. Not just big nose, dark hair, brown eyes. But I was playing big style, not typical Swedish.””What was your playing style, and what was ‘wrong’ with it?” I ask.”Swedish way was ‘Work hard for each other.’ Where I came from, we were all challenging each other, trying to become individual type of player. Who was the best to dribble? Who was the best to shoot? Who was the best to put it on the crossbar? Who was best to put between the legs? Who was strongest? I learn to resolve my own things: Give me the ball, and I will take care of it. I will score the goal. I will make one against one. I will dribble him. I will put between his leg. I will make this crazy goal.”In other words, a purely Darwinian, me-against-the-world ethos.”We did not think ’11 against 11.’ It was not that kind of game,” he says. “It was more individual competition. Like I show I’m the best. I will make a fool of you now. Pop! Pop! I will dribble you, put it between your legs, then make fun of you. That is what we stood for. It was more physical, and it was technical football. But it was not the Swedish game.”Such a great malapropism there, the notion that little Zlatan would not only dribble between your legs but dribble you, kicking you in whichever direction he pleased.”It was not ‘I run here for you and you pass,'” he says. “No. It was ‘I will run where the ball goes because I want the ball.’ So they were on me all the time: ‘You are a spoiled player. You are a diva. You cannot play like that.'”Indeed, even after Ibra joined his hometown’s professional club at 17, the parents of one of his teammates petitioned to have him booted from the league. “This was the moment I said to myself, ‘Now I will destroy everyone. I will not have respect for nobody.'””I was not even a talent in their eyes, just a little s— from Rosengard,” he adds.A question presents itself: Was football fun for the young Zlatan?”It was competition, always,” Zlatan says. “You were No. 1, or you were nobody.”Is it fun now?”I look at him and ask myself that question all the time,” Kirovski says. “Me, I still love it. I play all the time. I’m competitive, I want to win, too. But when I look at this guy, the intensity of his training, of his mindset, I wonder if he’s ever having fun out there. And I think that if he doesn’t score and win, it’s not fun for him.”If you’ve followed Ibra’s long and glorious career, his triumphant march from Malmo to Ajax to Juventus to Inter Milan to Barcelona (the only place things didn’t work out, thanks to seismic clashes with manager Pep Guardiola) to AC Milan to Paris St-Germain to Manchester United, it’s hard not to suspect that, as flamboyant and funny as he is off the field, he doesn’t experience fun on the field. When he scores one of his crazy goals, there is joy, yes, but it’s a joy born of grim, gladiatorial satisfaction. There. I’ve showed you. Now do you believe?You can see this. Watch any of Zlatan’s-greatest-goals compilations fans have put on the internet. Compare them to those of his generational peers like Messi, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. The others inevitably seem as amazed by what they’ve just done as their fans. They’re stricken, their joy unabashed and beyond their control; they’re like birthday boys caught in the deluge of candy under a shattered piñata. Ibra, he’s different. Childlike glee, though present, is secondary. It’s interesting that his list of transcendent athletes — that is, athletes who in his view don’t just play their sport but embody it — includes Mike Tyson. Because the look on Ibra’s face after many of his craziest goals uncannily resembles the mask of joyless vindication Tyson used to don after flattening yet another patsy.It’s the darnedest thing because, off the field, Ibra is nothing but playful. At one point, as we’re talking about his daily routine, I ask if he dreams about soccer.”Dream? No, I don’t need to dream. When I was young, I was dreaming. Now I’m in the dream. Now I am the dream.”I laugh and nod in a game “Of course you are, Zlatan” way, and he issues a grin, conceding that he has slipped seamlessly from being Zlatan into performing “Zlatan.”Interestingly, these moments where Ibra slips, perhaps unconsciously, between answering my questions in earnest and playing (toying?) with me, are never off-putting. Others around him feel this way, too. “He’s always coming out and saying these … things,” says one Galaxy executive. “If these things came out of anybody else’s mouth, you’d think ‘What a jerk.’ But when Ibra says them, it’s always charming.”I’ve interviewed highly intelligent athletes who, like Ibra, have a meta understanding of themselves and use the interview process to test and mock the interviewer. But when Ibra plays with an interviewer, there’s a startling absence of malice; there’s no sulk in his toying, no insinuation that he’s trying to alleviate boredom. To him, the role of “Ibra” is just good, clean fun. I can’t help but wonder if he seeks out and capitalizes on this fun because fun is not part of the equation when he’s on the field. There, it’s all about the anger and vindication. (For opponents, refs and even teammates, yes, but mainly for himself.)”Do you play well when you’re angry?” I ask him.”YESSSSsssss!” Ibra says, slowly, with more than a few extra S’s thrown in to make the sentiment imprint. “That is when I get the best out of myself. That’s the way I feel my life.””Some athletes are eaten alive by anger.””Not Zlatan,” says Zlatan. “I need to be angry because I need to feel alive. When I relax, when I play without anger? It becomes sloppy, and it might appear I get violent.” A startling possibility there — that without anger and the focus it gives him, Zlatan succumbs to petulance and pettiness, which in turn leads to sloppy, violent play and red cards. “When I’m angry, then I’m on my toes.””Anger creates energy?””Yesssss. I see the whole environment when I’m angry. Now, anger to hurt somebody? Never. That’s not part of my DNA.” (Nedum Onuoha of Real Salt Lake would beg to differ. After Zlatan threw him to the ground during a 2-1 Galaxy victory this spring, Onuoha dubbed him a “complete thug” and then predicted that “it will get spun into a story about how he’s really competitive and this is what gets him going, this is why he’s one of the best of all time. That’s just the way that it works. I’m not the type of person to say that the better MLS players get preferential treatment, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a lot easier to be Zlatan than it is to be the striker for Real Salt Lake.”)To Zlatan, 50% of soccer is mental. Mental toughness, that is. Which is something he thinks American soccer players lack. This lack, he believes, is institutional and largely explains why MLS has always stood in the shadow of the international game. Kirovski agrees. “In Europe, if you don’t pass me the ball, I can really have a go at you and yell at you, and it’s no big deal. Here that kind of thing is taken personally. Our youth players are getting better at handling pressure, but there’s still a way to go.”When I asked Zlatan what it will take for MLS to achieve parity with Europe and South America, he responds with a question.”Do they want to make it?””Who is ‘they’?””They that control it. The owners. Do they want it to be big?”

“Yeah. Of course.””You think?””You don’t?””I don’t.””Why?””Because you don’t make money in soccer,” he tells me. “In Europe, I can pick two clubs that make money. The rest don’t; they do it out of passion. Here, with the sports, you make money. That’s it. And I think with all the rules you have here, you are not boosting up the soccer.”What rules?”The budget things. The salary cap. You cannot bring in players you want. They have more rules here than I have in my home.”He paused for a moment, measuring the thought that came to him, then let it go.”I will tell you that of all the places I’ve been in my life as a professional, this is the most difficult.”Zlatan says the American game needs to continue to evolve.”MLS is not the level of Europe, to be honest. Before, I played with players either on my level or close to it. Which makes the game connect easier. … Here, I am like a Ferrari among Fiats. And it can happen that the Ferrari can become the Fiat, or the Fiat can become the Ferrari. I had the same issue with the national [Swedish] team, though not as much. I said, ‘I don’t accept it. I don’t accept when the ball doesn’t arrive, or arrives too late. I want them to come up to my level.’ All of this makes me slow down a bit. The game here [in America] could be so much faster, so much more tactical, so much more rhythmic.”Then there are the regrets. It is striking that, having won everywhere he has gone, and despite his ongoing ability to score, Zlatan was unable to get the Galaxy into the playoffs last year (and that his team is not even the best in its own city). The issue rankles Ibra, not just the failure to get in but also the “playoff mentality” itself.”Here, you can lose five games and it’s still, ‘Don’t worry, we are in the playoffs.’ So why even play first eight months of season? No, I don’t accept. To be best, you have to be best every day. You know, in Euro, if you come in last, you go down to Division 2. That is pressure. … So last year, we fight for six position to go to playoff, but came in seven. If we had made sixth position, people would have said we had a ‘good season.’ I say, ‘Fighting for the sixth position? That means we had s— season!” We need to fight for No. 1, not 6.”When, inevitably, we talk about his injury, Zlatan was at his sincerest and most unperformative. “It was not easy,” he said in a whisper, as if speaking the sentiment aloud might make real the prospect of not being able to play. What would, what will, it do to a man like him, once his anger can no longer find purchase on the pitch?”It was not easy,” he says again.After a beat, he mentioned that the night before, he’d been watching the NBA Finals. “When Kevin Durant got injured? I turned off the TV. Because for me he is the best. He is the game. Once he was hurt, there was nothing to see.”Or, perhaps, he couldn’t bear to see an all-time great, past the 50% point of his career, felled and with a long and painful recovery ahead of him. “I feel my body has always followed what I want. I feel it’s answering to me now. When it’s starting to not answer, then I will know: It’s time.”The passion is what makes him so good at the age of 37, but it will also make the game all but impossible for him to let go of.”I think it will be very difficult to stop. When I got injured, I went away from my family to do my rehab. I did not want them to see me in a bed paralyzed, not moving. I am so emotional with my game. But emotional with control. You’re not gonna see me jump in front of a car because I cannot play football anymore, OK?”I sit for a moment, thinking about Zlatan and his anger and where in his life he finds fun. Then I remember a story Brendan Hannan, the Galaxy’s vice president of marketing, communications and digital, told me. He was talking about how incredibly accessible Ibra has made himself in LA, both to fans who show up at training sessions looking for autographs and pictures and to those employed by the Galaxy in promotions. Shortly after he arrived at the club, Ibra agreed to film a promotion with Mickey Mouse.”Ibra had just gotten here,” Hannan recalls. “He hadn’t played in months, and nobody really knew what kind of condition his knee was in. Some people doubted he’d score more than 10 goals” — so far he has notched 35 goals in 43 appearances — “and some even doubted if he’d even play.”Which was why the whole Galaxy staff froze when Zlatan began playing with Mickey Mouse and, according to Hannan, “doing crazy stuff.” Juggling. Nutmegging the Mick. Striking the ball 30 feet in the air, then assuming a full limbo posture with his legs bent back and his chest facing the sky before trapping the ball there — no bounce, as if the ball were a rotten grapefruit — then flexing his chest in order to pop the ball 3 feet up. The coup de grace: bicycle-kicking the thing off into the ether. Zlatan was going full Zlatan. For the love of God, why?”I just wanted to make Mickey Mouse happy. He was not answering me!” Zlatan protests. “Just blinking. So I kept doing tricks and asking, ‘You like that, Mickey?’ But I didn’t get any answer. Jst more blinking. So I’m like, OK, let’s try this, and this, and this.””That’s not normal,” I said.”I am not normal,” Zlatan agreed. Then, apropos of absolutely nothing and everything, he whispered: “It is a beautiful game, no?”

Alisson’s first year at Liverpool: How the goalkeeper became the world’s best and led Reds to CL glory

Jul 19, 2019 Melissa Reddy Correspondent ESPNFC

“There were so many positives — his physique, how he commanded his area, his comfort at building play — but what immediately stood out was his decision-making. You can spend hours working on technical aspects, but you have to have the natural ability to read situations and react so that you make the difficult things look simple.”Liverpool’s goalkeeping coach John Achterberg is talking about a time in 2013, when, hunched in front of the laptop in his home office, he began dissecting footage of Alisson Becker. His first impression was so strong that he began compiling an extensive dossier on Brazil’s No. 1, who was just 20 and playing for Internacional before permanently displacing his older brother Muriel (five years his senior) and the World Cup-winning Dida in the position.The army of scouts that scour Brazil for “The Next Big Thing” were zoned in on playmakers, but the young goalkeeper stood out to an unlikely talent spotter. Goalkeeper Alexander Doni, signed by Liverpool on a free transfer from Roma in 2011 and making just four appearances before his release, had taken note of the calm yet imposing figure wearing the gloves for Inter. He was convinced Alisson had an incredibly high ceiling and would quickly be considered elite at his position.”I kept in touch with Doni after he left Liverpool, and in 2013, I asked him if there were any goalkeepers in Brazil worth following,” Achterberg tells ESPN FC. “He responded without hesitation that I should check out Alisson at Internacional because he was going to be special.”I watched him and his style of play — he was comfortable with the ball, aggressive, positive — fitted in perfectly with what we needed at Liverpool. But most importantly, he was excellent at doing the basics right and really well. ‘Ali’ would anticipate danger and make all kinds of saves: easy, hard, high, low. He had the physical aspects in terms of height at 6-foot-4 and his athleticism.”Achterberg had seen enough evidence over a long stretch to suggest Alisson could be a game-changer for Liverpool, and the coach pitched as much during transfer discussions. “He had the right profile, ticked all the boxes. He came into our recruitment talks about a year or two after the recommendation from Doni, and I spoke to his agent. The problem at that time was getting him a work permit for the UK, which would have been very difficult.”Alisson’s wife, Natalia Loewe, has relatives from Germany and Italy, so the pair were in the process of trying to get Italian-Brazilian citizenship when Roma spent a bargain £7 million to sign him in July 2016. As luck would have it, the move to Serie A encouraged Liverpool to intensify their analysis given the heightened technical demands of the Italian league. Alisson was frustrated as Wojciech Szczesny’s understudy during his debut season in 2016-17, only clocking minutes in Cup games. But the Merseysiders already had the opportunity to examine him at close range in August 2016, during a preseason friendly defeat against Roma at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.”He played an impressive game, and I said to the boss [Klopp], ‘That’s the goalkeeper I keep telling you about,'” Achterberg says. “The next season, he was Roma’s No. 1 and confirmed why he was so highly thought of.”By December 2017, Liverpool were not alone in viewing Alisson as a primary transfer target. Real Madrid and Chelsea had both made approaches to the player’s camp, but the Reds had the advantage of the time and depth to their research. The Spanish giants realigned their sights and wanted to secure Thibaut Courtois from Stamford Bridge, which made the Blues the biggest threat to Liverpool landing their man. Chelsea dithered and eventually pursued Kepa Arrizabalaga as the Anfield side slowly chipped away at Roma, who were being obstructive with an initial base price of £62m in February 2018, which kept rising.The closing months of Liverpool’s five-year process of recruiting Alisson felt like football’s “House of Cards.” Talks would start and stall as neither the Premier League side nor Roma would blink in negotiations. During international breaks with Brazil, Philippe Coutinho, already at Barcelona after his £142m departure, was Liverpool’s chief salesman, ably assisted by Roberto Firmino. They detailed the family feel of the club to Alisson and spoke about the city, Klopp’s long-term vision and the adulation from the Kop.The keeper, who had experienced the power of Anfield during Roma’s 5-2 Champions League semifinal defeat in April 2018, was sold, but there were other obstacles. The Italians predicted desperation on Liverpool’s part after the Champions League final in Kiev, where a concussed Loris Karius made two decisive errors as Real Madrid beat the Reds 3-1 that May. Roma raised their valuation to £90m, which threatened to completely kill a deal. It took them softening their stance to such an extent in July that the fee for Alisson dropped to a guaranteed £56m, with £9m in add-ons for the long-awaited transfer to finally be completed.Klopp described Alisson as “one of the world’s best goalkeepers” when his signing was announced on this day a year ago, but as Trent Alexander-Arnold has since stated to ESPN FC, “there is no one better on current form.”The 26-year-old is a Champions League and Copa America champion, pivotal to both triumphs with Golden Glove honours in those competitions as well as in the Premier League. He was labelled a “transformer” at Melwood, along with Virgil van Dijk, and there was confidence he would have as much of an impact on Liverpool’s rearguard, results and psychology as the world’s most expensive defender.The squad’s introduction to Alisson came at the lower floor of the palatial Hotel Royal in Evian-les-Bains last summer, where the club were based for a training camp. When he walked into the room in late July, there were audible gasps, with one player unable to conceal his excitement as he declared: “Get him in my f–king goal!”There were pauses during Alisson’s first training stints as his teammates stopped to marvel at and applaud him.”Straight away he made impressions on the team with the speed of his reactions in the training games and how he restarted play,” Achterberg says. “As soon as he caught the ball, it was ‘boom, counter-attack!’ because of the power and accuracy of his throws.The coaching staff believed the real challenge would come when Alisson made his first sizeable blunder. It came at Leicester City on Sept. 1, 2018, when he hesitated after receiving van Dijk’s misdirected backpass in the second half, which allowed Kelechi Iheanacho to dispossess him and square for Rachid Ghezzal to score. Alisson didn’t let the error affect him, and he owned up to it post-match, telling ESPN Brazil: “It was bad judgement, I made a mistake reading the play. I didn’t get a very good pass. We have to learn from our mistakes.”How he reacted to the gaffe was commended in the dressing room. “He stayed positive, so the team stayed positive,” Achterberg says. “If you play out from the back, there’s always risk. The players needed to make quicker options for him so he could find a solution earlier.”It’s really important if you make a mistake, you realise it’s gone and you move on, which is what he did. You have to be bigger than the mistake you made.”Clemer Silva, who coached the keeper at Internacional B, saw the very same attributes when Alisson was a teenager: He never lost focus after a fault. His effortlessness in high-pressure and testing moments means his brilliance is sometimes asterisked. That was the case with his save two minutes into stoppage time to thwart Arkadiusz Milik in last season’s Champions League matchday 6 game against Napoli.Liverpool were 1-0 up and had to win to progress to the knockout stages when Jose Callejon’s left-footed cross fell at the feet of the Polish striker in the six-yard box with only the keeper to beat. The speed with which Alisson reacted to the danger, the intelligence of his positioning and his size, panicked Milik into sending the effort straight at him.”The save Allison made, I have no words for that. That was, of course, a life-saver,” Klopp said in the aftermath. But many questioned whether it was actually that good. It was an example of Achterberg’s assertion that the Brazilian has a gift for making difficult things look simple.Marco Savorani, goalkeeper coach of Roma and widely regarded as the best in his trade in Italy, made the same observation. “Alisson is able to make everything simple. He reads the game, is very calm and calculated,” he said last year.This line of thinking is not recent either. Daniel Pavan, who schools keepers at Internacional, had been witness to Alisson’s development since he was a 10-year-old kid mimicking his brother; Pavan gave him the moniker “Iceman” due to his composure. Goalkeepers at Inter’s academy were drilled to be in the right position and cover as large a portion of the goal as possible rather than constantly making elaborate, acrobatic saves. They were taught to be smart rather than showy.Klopp regularly pinpoints Alisson’s intervention against Milik as one of Liverpool’s defining moments of 2018-19. For all the focus on the belief, bravery and goals that resulted in the Reds conjuring a historic Champions League comeback against Barcelona in the second leg of the semifinals, Liverpool’s players often admit that without Alisson’s one-man blockade against Leo Messi & Co., victory would have remained a fantasy.His efficiency continued in the 2-0 triumph over Tottenham in the final, and as such, there was a shared pleasure among staff and the squad that UEFA’s stellar, near 13-minute short film of the showpiece in Madrid ended with a shot of Alisson FaceTiming his family to show off his winner’s medal.Alisson has excelled on the grandest stages over the past year, his influence explicitly linked to silverware for his club and country. He has collected the three most prestigious goalkeeping accolades and went nine consecutive games without conceding in all competitions before reaching the Copa America final. That included shutting out Messi twice, for Barcelona and Argentina, as well as Harry Kane.Since moving to Liverpool, he has kept the same number of club clean sheets (35) as he has conceded goals. Lev Yashin of Dynamo Moscow was the first and only goalkeeper to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 1963, but Alisson surely has to be a part of the conversation this year. He is too humble to consider himself a possible candidate, playing down such talk last month. “There are a lot of top players aspiring for that prize,” he said. “I’m just a goalkeeper.”Roberto Negrisolo, the former Roma goalkeeping coach, previously provided the perfect counter.”This guy is a phenomenon,” he told Il Romanista of a player who was so far behind in terms of his physical development — he was chubbier and shorter than his colleagues — that his parents considered making him quit football at 15.”He is the No. 1 of No. 1s. He is worth as much as Messi because he is as important as Messi. He’s the type of goalkeeper who can define an era.”A year ago, Liverpool officials confided that £65m for Alisson would soon be seen as a steal. They were spot on, too: As Klopp himself admitted, Alisson is easily worth double as he regularly proved during the past 12 months.

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN LOOKS TO IMPROVE STRONG AWAY RECORD AT NASHVILLE SC

By IndyEleven.com, 07/25/19, 5:30PM EDT

 

Boys in Blue head to Nissan Stadium for second fixture against fifth-place Nashville SC

FOLLOW LIVE:

Local/National TV: N/A

Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click for a free 7-day trial)

Radio (Spanish): N/A

In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Honda

SETTING THE TABLE:

Indy Eleven: 11W-3L-4D, 37 pts., 3rd in Eastern Conference

Nashville SC: 9W-5L-5D, 32 pts., 5th in Eastern Conference

Click here for the full USL Championship standings

FIRST 2019 MEETING:

Indy Eleven 0 : 0 Nashville SC | Saturday, May 25

The Boys in Blue shared points with Nashville SC the last time the two teams faced each other on Indy 500 Weekend in Indy. Goalkeeper Evan Newton recorded his fifth consecutive home clean sheet after stopping a Nashville side that didn’t start either star striker in Cameron Lancaster or Daniel Rios. The best chance of the game came early in the 15th minute, after a through ball freed Nashville forward Tucker Hume for a one-on-one opportunity just outside the Indy six-yard-box, but Newton, quick off his line, nullified the goal scoring chance and saved a point for Indiana’s Team.

#INDvNSH:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats 

LAST TIME OUT:

Indy Eleven  2 : 0  Loudoun United FC  | Saturday, July 20

The Boys in Blue returned to winning ways last Saturday night after the toppling Loudoun United FC, 2-0. Late-game theatrics courtesy of forward Thomas Enevoldsen (fifth goal of 2019) and midfielder Tyler Pasher (team-high eighth goal) paved the way for the double over Major League Soccer’s D.C. United’s affiliate side. Evan Newton helped record the team’s 10th clean sheet and his seventh of the 2019 USL Championship season. The victory sees Indiana’s Team extend its undefeated streak at home to 18 games.

#INDvLDN:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats 

Memphis 901 FC 0 : 2 Nashville SC  |  Wednesday, July 17

Goals from defender Jimmy Ockford and leading goal scorer Daniel Rios saw Nashville SC edge out Memphis in the Tennessee rivals’ second and final meeting of the 2019 USL Championship regular season. The second fixture featured the same exact score line as the first, played back on April 13. The clean sheet was Nashville’s seventh this year, ranking tied for fifth across the 36-team Championship and trailing Indy’s league-best mark by three. The clean sheet is also the fifth time in 2019 that Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens has kept the goose egg from cracking.

#MEMvNSH:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats

#NSHVIND STORYLINES

  • Indy Eleven holds a 5W-3L-0D record on the road in 2019 (17GF/10GA), averaging 1.25 goals allowed per game.
  • After their May 25 stalemate, Indy’s all-time record against Nashville SC stands at 2W-0L-1D (3GF/1GA).
  • An Indy Eleven win and New York Red Bulls II draw or loss this weekend will propel Indiana’s Team into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference. The Boys in Blue sit one point behind NYRB2 and six behind the East-leading Tampa Bay Rowdies, but holds two games in hand on both squads.
  • Indy boasts an impressive defense, leading the Eastern Conference in clean sheets and tied for first in the USL with 10. Goalkeeper Evan Newton has the second most clean sheets in the Eastern Conference and is tied for fourth overall in the USL Championship with seven.
  • That stingy play has allowed Indiana’s Team to post the second best goals allowed mark in both the Eastern Conference and USL Championship, its 0.67 average on 12 goals allowed just a sliver behind the Rowdies’ 0.65 pace.
  • The Boys in Blue have scored in each of the last eight games, including five multi-goal games. (15GF/5GA). In fact, the last team to hold the Boys in Blue scoreless happened to be Nashville SC back on May 25.
  • Indy midfielder Tyler Pasher has scored or assisted in eight of his last nine starts (7G/1A).
  • Nashville SC’s Ramone Howell spent four years playing at Valparaiso University in Northwest Indiana, where he made 67 appearances and scored seven goals.
  • Nashville fullback Justin Davis is no stranger to Indy Eleven, having faced the side 10 times with Minnesota United from 2014-2016 and twice in 2018 with Nashville SC.
  • Davis’ fellow wing back Darnell King faced the Boys in Blue a total of nine times while playing for Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies from 2014-2016.
  • Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens has faced the Boys in Blue with both Tampa Bay Rowdies and Nashville SC. The Brickyard Battalion’s favorite netminder had a 2W-1L-6D record against Indy Eleven in nine games with Tampa Bay Rowdies and owns a 0W-2L-1D record against Indy with Nashville SC.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH | FW THOMAS ENEVOLDSEN

The man who’s been on the pitch the most for Indy Eleven is forward Thomas Enevoldsen, as the native of Denmark has started every one of Indy’s 18 games and played all but three minutes of those starts. The tenacious forward has racked up five goals along the way – and his never say die attitude and tireless engine have played key roles in his goal scoring exploits.Despite being denied scoring opportunities throughout the season – and refreshingly wearing his frustrations and emotion on his sleeves – the Dane never stops making runs into the box and putting himself in the right positions to score as he showed against Birmingham Legion FC with a 91st minute goal last month and against Loudoun United FC on Saturday with an 81st minute goal. Enevoldsen also plays more than a nine role for his club. He’s not afraid to help create chances for teammates as a 10, as he leads Indy Eleven in chances created with 41, two of which have resulted in assists.

NASHVILLE SC PLAYER TO WATCH | FW DANIEL RIOS

Neither influential striker Cameron Lancaster or Daniel Rios started for Nashville SC the last time the side traveled to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Boys in Blue, most likely the result of playing 90 minutes against Birmingham Legion three days before. Failing to start against the Boys in Blue on May 25 is the only game this season that Rios hasn’t started of his 19 appearances.In that time, the Mexican has scored 12 goals, seeing him tied for the leading goal scorer honor in the Eastern Conference and tied for second in the Championship’s Golden Boot race. The 24-year-old has been potent recently, having scored four goals in his last five outings. Expect Rios to attempt to land a shot on goal this go around against Indiana’s Team, after failing to take a single shot in the 13 minutes he played off the bench on May 25.

MATCH-UP TO MARK | INDY’S TYLER GIBSON VS NASHVILLE’S MATT LAGRASSA

If coaches Martin Rennie and Gary Smith were choosing teams for a pickup street soccer game and had their pick of the Championship’s solid selection of “number sixes” to hold down the middle third, they’d likely stand pat with Gibson and LaGrassa, respectively.

Both midfielders encapsulate what it means to be a box-to-box, do the dirty work that goes unnoticed, holding midfielder. For starters, both midfielders have incredible engines. Gibson has started every match of Indy’s 18 games played and has played all but six minuts of those appearances, being subbed off one time to avoid injury. On the other hand, LaGrassa has started all but two of Nashville’s 19 fixtures, failing to play only 40 minutes of his 17 starts. Each trail only a forward in minutes played on their respective squads – Gibson trails Enevoldsen by three minutes and LaGrassa to Rios by 62 minutes.

The pair are excellent defensively, each leading their team in interceptions. The 28-year-old Gibson has racked up 20 interceptions and LaGrassa 25, a fifth of which came against Indy Eleven in May. Each also leads their team in passes played, as Gibson has played 968 passes to LaGrassa’s 771. The one area that Gibson has a slight edge over 26-year-old LaGrassa is passing accuracy, which he displayed in the first meeting against Nashville where he averaged 94 percent pass completion while LaGrassa completed 77 percent. Gibson – a native of Knoxville, Tenn. – boasts an average 89 percent passing accuracy this season as opposed to LaGrassa’s 79 percent. Look for these two to boss the midfield and butt heads on more than one occasion come Saturday night.

THREE THINGS | WEEK 20

By Drew Kamaski, 07/23/19, 10:45AM EDT1

Our Three Things from Indy Eleven’s 2-0 victory vs. Loudoun United FC

SECOND HALF FORM

The Boys in Blue have taken a liking to scoring goals in the second half over the last two months. In June, Indiana’s Team tallied nine of its 12 goals within the second stanza of each match. The trend has rolled through July as well, as all three of Indy’s goals have come in the latter half of matches, adding a bit of entertaining drama to the team’s recent run.The first second-half goal this month came through a penalty at the death, finished by Ayoze in the team’s first visit to Hartford Athletic on July 13. Late-goals two and three came in last Saturday’s 2-0 home win against Loudoun United FC, Thomas Enevoldsen opened the game’s scoring in the 81st minute, followed by Tyler Pasher’s devastating nutmeg goal that sealed victory 10 minutes later in stoppage time with his eighth goal of the season. The Boys in Blue will aim to continue the form in front of net at Nashville SC and North Carolina FC over the next two weeks, after playing to scoreless draws in the first meetings of 2019.

DANE KELLY

If we’re looking at stellar second-half performances, look no further than Dane Kelly’s 23 minutes against Loudoun United FC. The Jamaican’s impact was felt almost immediately after nearly breaking the deadlock eight minutes into his late-game appearance, a through ball from Pasher freed Kelly for a one-on-one from the left side of the box, but his effort was pushed wide.Kelly left his mark on the match via an assist six minutes later. The 28-year-old’s perfectly weighted one-touch pass into Loudoun’s penalty area created space for Enevoldsen to tuck a shot down middle and between the wickets of Loudoun’s ‘keeper, handing the Boys in Blue the lead. He might not have scored the goal, but his ability to read Loudoun’s defense and vision to play the pass crafted the opportunity.“I think one of the things that helped us was Dane [Kelly] came on fresh and helped us stretch the opposition,” Head Coach Martin Rennie said. “Once he came on we had quite a lot of chances.”

KEEPING IT CLEAN

The 2-0 victory over Loudoun United FC marked goalkeeper Evan Newton’s seventh clean sheet of the 2019 campaign and his first since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him a month. Newton recorded four saves in the team’s eighth shutout at home this season. Last season’s Golden Glove winner has recorded all but two of those eight home clean sheets, with Jordan Farr laying claim to the outliers against Atlanta United 2 and Birmingham Legion FC.The team’s strength at home has come through the stellar play of the back three in the 3-4-3 formation coach Rennie has deployed this season. The Scotsman’s squad has allowed just two goals in 10 home matches, boasting the lowest goals allowed tally in the entirety of the league (12) after Tampa Bay Rowdies conceded its 13th on the season against Saint Louis FC last Saturday.  “It’s always good to get a clean sheet and the guys in front have done a good job,” Newton said. “You have to keep pushing and I’m confident with everyone on this team and whoever’s in front.”Indy Eleven will take to the road the next two weeks with the chance to put some distance between its closest foes on the Eastern Conference table, starting with next Saturday’s meeting against Nashville FC at Nissan Stadium (8:00 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+). After traveling to face North Carolina FC on Saturday, August 3 (7:00 p.m., live on WISH-TV & ESPN+), the Boys in Blue will enjoy a bye week before returning home for back-to-back Sunday affairs against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 18 (Faith & Family Night) and Charlotte Independence on Aug. 25 (“Red Out” Summer Celebration). Tickets for those contests at Lucas Oil Stadium remain available for as little as $15 and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

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7/12/19 US Ladies Win World Cup #4, US Men Lose in GC Finals, Indy 11 home Sat 7 pm, ICC Starts, MLS Rivalry’s

WWC – USA

So the Summer of Soccer has ended for the US – as the US Ladies add a 4th star to the shirt – with their impressive Back-to-Back World Cup Championships.  The ladies had the most difficult road as they had to beat 3 of the top 5 ranked teams France, England, Sweden and the European Champion Netherland’s along with way.  The US scored the most goals (26) in World Cup history – helped by the 13-0 beat down of Thailand?  They had 2 of the top 3 scorers as Megan Rapino (6 goals/3 assist – fewer minutes played) edged Alex Morgan 6 goals/3 assist for the Golden Boot and Golden Ball.   In all 11 different players scored for the US – a record in a ladies World Cup.  The crowds included lots of sold out stadiums in France and tons of viewers worldwide as the game outdrew last season’s Men’s World Cup with over 15 million viewers for the 11 am Final last Sunday.  The players return to the US as hero’s with a tickertape parade in NYC and calls for equal pay for the ladies coming from all fronts. Cool speech by Rapino after the parade in NYC.  I would certainly agree they need to be treated the same – same hotels, chartered flights, and treatment.  I do know the US ladies players are actually paid to play by US soccer not their clubs – while men make considerably more at their club and are paid bonuses to make the team and win World Cup games.  This will certainly be a hot topic as the US ladies look to arbitrate their case against US soccer while preparing a victory tour set to start in August in the US and of course return to their club teams in NWSL which just signed a deal with ESPN to show 10 games down the stretch of the season. This US ladies team winning their 4th star – with the largest TV audience to see a soccer game since the 2015 Women’s Final World Cup Game – has had a huge impact in the US – just how big may not be known for decades – but at least people are talking about women’s soccer and that’s pretty cool.  Oh and the Goalkeeping was pretty dang good this world cup – be sure to see saves below.

US Men –Gold Cup

Let’s start by saying the US Men under their new Manager Gregg Berhalter did some good things in the Gold Cup.  One of my favorite  wrap up on the Gold Cup was on Yahoo.  We made the final – and actually outplayed the favored Mexican’s in the first half at a 85% pro Mexican crowd in the final in Chicago.  I thought we basically dominated the lesser teams with both possession and shots early in the tourney while not giving up any goals – despite some issues along the back line at times. I thought the new system worked and for the first time since Bob Bradley the team seemed to have both direction and confidence in what the coach was asking them to do.  They had a plan that should certainly hold up against CONCACAF competition and should get us thru qualifiers and Nations League in route to the 2022 World Cup.  Now as for which players stood out – of course Pulisic and McKennie we knew would do great and they did.  This team needs Pulisic working on all cylinders to truly be top class – and when he was we were.  Paul Arriola continues to impress on the wing and I thought newcomer 24 year old Tyler Boyd was a revelation in the early part of the tourney and was actually the best player on the field in one game (I have no idea why he didn’t play in the last 2 games- coach was an idiot for not subbing him vs Mexico in the 2nd half down 1-0.  No idea what he was thinking putting Roldan in rather than Boyd).  Also making a name for himself was young 21 year old Right back Reggie Cannon – the starter in the final 2 games – solidified in my mind his importance.    Centerback 26 year-old Aaron Long emerged as a star in my mind and should be a starter moving forward with hopefully a healthy John Brooks or Walker Zimmerman or Matt Miazga.  I thought Miazga was weak in the Mexico game and honestly it was him not closing down that gave up the goal (he was right there and backed off turning his body to avoid taking the hit for the team) on the goal that cost us the game. Watch the goal again.  I also thought Tim Ream was just ok at left back – used more as a 3 man center back tandem in many games.  I actually thought Michael Bradley was ok at the #6 slot  -especially when McKennie slotted next to him in the last few games – he’s much better than ().  Bradley delivered some great balls overtop and did a good job protecting the back 3 or 4 depending on our alignment.  Now I did think he was overrun in the 2nd half vs Mexico and definitely ran out of gas – but McKennie who played poorly vs Mexico was just as much to blame.  Now of course I think 20 year old phenom and Red Bulls dmid Tyler Adams should slide into the #6 role as the US Moves forward – which would cut back on Bradley’s time – but he definitely still has a role on this team through qualifying at least. Finally let’s talk forwards – I was disappointed that Altidore was not played more in the tourney – Altidore when healthy is still truly our only #9 – and his hold up play and passing ability was huge in the wins over Caursao and Jamaica I am just not sure why he didn’t start every game.  I thought Zardes was ok and he hustles and he scored a couple of goals – but he’s not a #9 SORRY.  I sure would have liked to have seen Josh Sargeant in that role some instead of Zardes.   Anyway – overall it was not a bad showing by the US in this Gold Cup – and not a bad result for Gregg Berhalter.  He showed flexibility in his system and line-ups based on the players he had for each game and dealt with not having two of the best US players in Tyler Adams and John Brooks for this tourney.  We had every chance to take the lead on Mexico in the 1st half and certainly should have scored 1 if not 2 goals in a half where the US had equal possession and many more changes on goal.  And even after conceding in the 2nd half – and despite the horrible subbing – the US should have scored an equalizer in the final 5 minutes if not for an incredible save by Mexican keeper Ochoa.  So overall I give the US men a B.  Are we back to where the team was when Bob Bradley was coach?  No – but we also don’t have as many players playing in Europe or the EPL now as we did then.  We have a good young nucleus of players though – most under 25 – many under 21 who should help put US men’s Soccer back to where it was for the 2022 World Cup and more importantly for when we host in 2026.   Oh and will we ever be the home team in a full sized stadium in the US?  I was certainly sad to see Mexico fill 80,000 seat stadiums around the US – while the US could barely do 25K.  Sad to think that the same ratio of fans – I experienced in my first Gold Cup Final a 2-0 win in 2007 in Chicago 85% Mexican 15% US – was the same in 2019.

ICC

The international Champions Cup kicks off this week (see TV Schedule) – with some of your favorite European teams are playing across the country in NFL stadiums with many of the games on ESPN.  European Champs Liverpool will play Germany’s Dortmund on Friday night, July 19 on TNT at Notre Dame stadium and seats are still available.

MLS  

So now that the World Cup and Gold Cup and Copa America are over – (we still have the African Cup wrapping up this week on beIN Sport), MLS is finally starting to heat with the return of the Gold Cup Players across the league as is the NWSL – National Women’s Soccer League – where all the US World Cup Winners play and now have games on yahoosports and some ESPN games as well.  Rivalry week kicks off this week with DC United and Wayne Rooney hosting revitalized New England under Bruce Arena at 8 pm tonight on ESPN.  Seattle hosts Atlanta United Sun at 4 pm on ESPN while FS1 finishes soccer night in America with the NYC Derby – NY Red Bulls vs NYFCF.  Thursday night we get a double MLS ESPN dip with Cincy at DC United at 8 pm, followed by Portland hosting Orlando City at 10.  Then Friday night at 10 pm on ESPN we get El Traffico in LA – as the LA Galaxy host League Leaders LAFC.  Next Sunday wraps up rivalry week with Seattle hosting Portland in the Cascadian Cup 9:30 pm on FS1.

Carmel FC Summer Soccer Camps – July 15-18 9-12 pm Beginner Camp $150

Carmel FC Summer Soccer Camps – July 15-18 3-5 pm Elite Player Development Camp $150

CHS Boys Soccer Skills Camp – Murray Stadium July 15-18 8:30-10:30 am ages 8-14 $85

CFC_GK_Cash

USA LADIES WORLD CUP CHAMPS

Is this the Greatest Women’s Soccer team of all time?  Dan Wetzel Yahoo Sports

US Ladies A Team A cup Their Cause US World Class – Grant Wahl SI

Women’s WC Final TV Viewers tops Men’s Final in US – AP

World Cup Viewership and Disparity – Stars and Stripes –pay the ladies

Women’s Victory Parade and Inspiration at Victory Parade

Megan Rapino’s Excellent Speech at NYC Parade

What’s next for Megan Rapinoe and the older USWNT players? Graham Hayes ESPNW

US Ladies Player Ratings vs Dutch –NBC

US Ladies Repeat as World Cup Champs – Graham Hayes ESPNW

3 things we learned 

USWNT star Megan Rapinoe makes loud statement to silence critics

Chants of ‘equal pay’ accompany U.S. win

English Coach Phil Neville A Emotional Wreck after England Loss

US Men – Fall 1-0 to Mexico in Gold Cup Final

Mexico Delivers Harsh lesson to the USMNT – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

19 Things We Learned about the US Men at the Gold Cup – Harry Bushnell Yahoo Sports

3 Things US lose to Mexico

US lost the Gold Cup Final and that’s OK

Doyle: Clinical Mexico put USMNT to the sword Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle MLS.com

8.7 Million Tune in to see Gold Cup Final

– Marshall: Mexico’s ‘other’ Dos Santos haunts U.S.
– Mexico ratings: Pizarro leads way for El Tri
– U.S. ratings: Bradley, Morris too slow for hosts

Berhalter: US wasteful, but “Mexico were better” MLS.com

USMNT’s verdict? Progress, but we came up short

US Ratings: Who stood out in the loss to Mexico?

COPA America + African Cup

– Vickery: Messi’s red card overshadows Argentina’s positive steps
– Marcotti: Red card controversy casts cloud over Copa

African Cup Final 4 Set

 MLS

W2W4

MLS Power Rankings: LAFC reassert their title credentials

Atlanta title defense back on track after offseason of change threatened to derail campaign

USWNT named best team; Messi, Ibra win ESPYs

Galaxy teenager Alvarez ‘dominating training’ – Ibra

Ft. Lauderdale OKs Beckham Inter Miami stadium

Chicago agrees to $65m deal to leave stadium

Columbus Crew sign Curacao goalkeeper Room

Toe Poke Daily: Zlatan Ibrahimovic absolutely nails #bottlecapchallenge

Indy 11

Indy 11 Preview weekend game with Hartford on ESPN+ at 5 pm

Indy 11 MF Tyler Pasher names to Team of Week 17

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Sat 9 am Soccer Talk with Greg Rakestraw on 1070 the Fan & 107.5 FM

Goalkeeping

Best Saves from Women’s World Cup

Top 5 Saves World Cup Ladies

Great Saves by Netherlands Keeper Sari Veenedaal vs US

US Alyssa Naeher saves US vs England

Ochoa Wins Golden Glove huge saves vs US

Alisson wins Golden Glove in Copa for Brazil

Mexico’s Ochoa saves Mexico in shootout vs Costa Rica

Peru gets to Copa Final behind Gallese in Goal

Brick walls: Top saves from MLS Week 18

GAMES ON TV

Fri, July 13

8 pm ESPN                              DC United vs New England

Sat, July 14

  • 5 pm ESPN+                 Indy 11 vs Hartford

8pm ESPN+                             Chicago Fire vs Cincy

Sun, July 15

12 noon beIN Sport                 Senegal vs Tunisia Semis AFRICAN CUP

3 pm beIN sport                      Algeria vs Nigeria

4 pm ESPN                              Seattle vs Atlanta United

6:30 pm FS1                            NY Red Bulls vs NY City FC  

Wed, July 17

3 pm beIN Sport                     3rd Place AFRICAN CUP

8 pm ESPN+                            Chicago vs Columbus

11 pm ESPN 2                         Arsenal vs Bayern Munich  ICC

Thurs, July 18

8 pm ESPN                              Cincy vs DC United

10 pm ESPN                            Portland vs Orlando City

Fri, July 19

3 pm beIN Sport                     AFRICAN CUP FINALS

8 pm TNT                                Liverpool vs Dortmund (at Notre Dame)   

10 pm ESPN                            LA Galaxy vs LA FC  

10 pm yahoo sports                Utah Royals vs Portland Thorns NWSL

Sat, July 20

6:30 pm ESPN2                       Man United vs Inter  ICC

4 pm ESPN                              Benefica vs Guadalajara

  • 7 pm ESPN+, Myindy Indy 11 vs Loundon United

7 pm Yahoo Sports                                 Washington Spirit vs Houston Dash NWSL

8 pm ESPN2                            Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid ICC

Sun, July 21

7:30 am ESPN2                       Juve vs Tottenham ICC

4 pm ESPN                              Atlanta vs DC United (Rooney)

6 pm ESPN2                            Chicago Red Stars vs North Carolina Courage NWSL

7:30 pm FS 1                           Orlando City vs NY Red Bulls

9:30 pm FS 1                           Seattle vs Portland Timbers  

Tues, July 23

7 pm ESPN                              Real Madrid vs Arsenal ICC

9 pm ESPN                              Gaudalajara vs Atletico Madrid ICC

9 pm ESPN+                            Bayern Munich vs Milan  ICC

11 pm ESPN                            LA Galaxy vs Tiajuana  (League Cup)

Weds, July 24

7:30 am ESPN+                       Juventus vs Inter ICC

8 pm TNT                                Liverpool vs Sporting CP

8:30 pm ESPN+                       Houston Dynamo vs America  (League Cup)

Thurs, July 25

7:30 am ESPN+                       Tottenham vs Man United ICC

Fri, July 26

6:30 am ESPN                         Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ICC

10 pm ESPN                            LA FC vs Atlanta United

Sat, July 27

8 pm ESPN+                            Chicago Fire vs DC United

10 pm ESPNNews                   Utah Royals vs NC Courage NWSL

10:30 pm ESPN                       Portland vs LA Galaxy  

Sun, July 28

3 pm ESPN 2                           Milan vs Benefica ICC

Wed, July 31

8 pm Fox Sport 1                    MLS All-Star Game vs Atletico Madrid  

International Champions Cup Schedule July 16-Aug 18

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

 USWNT’s World Cup title confirms status as greatest women’s soccer team of all time

Dan WetzelColumnistYahoo SportsJul 7, 2019, 12:55 PM

LYON, France — The United States arrived at the World Cup brimming with confidence and embracing a championship-or-bust mentality.They left, after a thoroughly dominating tournament, with not just their fourth World Cup overall, and second consecutive, but the mantle as the greatest women’s soccer team of all time.The Americans outlasted the Netherlands 2-0 in Sunday’s World Cup final. They broke the game open on a Megan Rapinoe penalty kick in the 61st minute before Rose Lavelle added a brilliant goal in the 69th. It was a final that was tough, hard-fought, even bloody at times. But while the score was close for much of the game, the U.S. controlled most of the action and most of the quality scoring opportunities.It was indicative of a World Cup where the Americans were almost never threatened.They never trailed. They outscored their seven opponents 26-3. They never needed a second of extra time. They led an astounding 442 out of 630 minutes (70.2 percent of the time, a number that may defy belief from future soccer historians).Essentially, they did everything they promised they would and believed they could when they arrived here and declared that due to their depth of talent they had the first and second best teams in the world.The Dutch were a game opponent, physical and determined, the reigning European champions. Yet the talent difference on the field was marked. They became just another team for the U.S. to steamroll in a tournament that saw the Americans defeat the teams ranked third, fourth, eighth, ninth and 13th in the world.The Americans have fielded some all-time great squads, but none can match this level, let alone the sheer depth of ability. In a sport that grows by leaps and bounds every World Cup cycle, they completely overwhelmed this tournament, only mildly pressed by France late in a quarterfinal and England in the semis. Even then, they were at risk of an even scoreboard, not in need of a comeback.This was a complete show of strength by the United States, asign of how the country has so many superior athletes playing youth soccer that coach Jill Ellis has an embarrassment of riches to pick from.Carli Lloyd, 36, was the hero from 2015. She was a late game sub on this team, scoring three times anyway. Mallory Pugh, 21, may prove to be Alex Morgan’s successor as the team’s goal-scoring threat up front. She couldn’t get on the field during the knockout stages.They lost arguably their best player, forward Megan Rapinoe, for the semifinals due to a strained hamstring, and her replacement, Christen Press, who would start on any other team in the world, needed just 10 minutes to score.Their veterans such as Rapinoe and Morgan each delivered six goals and Julie Ertz was everywhere. Their newcomers such as Sam Mewis, 26, and Lavelle, 24, showed why the team’s future is bright.Headed into the tournament there was but one question – goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who is excellent but inexperienced at that level. She brushed that away with a brilliant penalty kick save against England and kept a clean sheet in the final.About the only concern that ever emerged during play was outside noise wondering if the Americans were too confident. They always prepared for, spoke highly of and respected their opponents, but it was clear that the U.S. believed if they played their game they would win.They were right. “It’s important that our team has confidence,” Ellis said early in the tournament. “I don’t think in any way this is an arrogant team. I think this team knows they have to earn everything, that we’ve got tough opponents like we played the other night still ahead of us and we have to earn every right to advance in this tournament.”It wasn’t long before the criticism turned to silly things such as celebrating too many goals with too much flair. When that’s what you are getting hit with as a tournament carries on, you’ve got a juggernaut on your hands.As long as their focus never wavered, neither would the results.Declaring this the greatest team in history isn’t an affront to the World Cup champions of 1991 and 1999. It is, instead, their legacy. They spawned not just a generation of girls who flocked to the sport, but the infrastructure of youth leagues and U.S. Soccer development that could handle them, nurture them and turn them into a ferocios group.The 2015 World Cup champions were very good, but they weren’t this good, they didn’t control the tournament this easily.As much as there is endless discussion of the soccer world, which is just now caring about the women’s game, catching up to the Americans, it never really panned out. These other countries, especially the seven European teams that joined the U.S. in the quarterfinals, are all better than ever.Yet the Americans are too – the gap actually widening for the time being.It wasn’t arrogance that powered their belief in themselves. It wasn’t overconfidence.It was domination, complete and utter American domination.

Unflappable. Unapologetic. Unequaled.

This edition of the USWNT has a claim to go down as the greatest U.S. women’s soccer team ever, winning the most competitive Women’s World Cup yet with the spotlight at its brightest, the target on its back glaring and outside pressures and attention raising the stakes to new heights. By Grant Wahl  SI Mag July 08, 2019

This story appears in the July 15, 2019, issue of Sports Illustrated. For more great storytelling and in-depth analysis, subscribe to the magazine—and get up to 94% off the cover price. Click here for more.

Which Megan Rapinoe pose did you prefer? Was it the one with her arms outstretched like a marble statue in the Louvre, aka The Purple-Haired Lesbian Goddess, that we saw after her goals against France in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals and against the Netherlands in Sunday’s final? Or was it the pose we saw on her Instagram, the one with her arms overflowing as she held a preposterous trio of Women’s World Cup trophies for the tournament title, the Golden Boot (top scorer) and the Golden Ball (MVP)?Or maybe pose isn’t the right word? That would imply something artificial, which is the last way you’d describe Rapinoe’s month-long tour de force during the U.S.’s second straight Women’s World Cup title runthe fourth in the team’s glorious history. Rarely in the annals of sports have we seen an athlete at the highest level talk the talk—and did she ever, demanding equal pay for women’s players, increased investment in the women’s game and greater respect for the LGBTQ, African-American and other minority communities—and then walk the walk, even with President Donald Trump calling her out on Twitter.“Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” Trump tweeted on June 26 after a months-old video of Rapinoe saying, “I’m not going to the f—king White House” if the U.S. team was invited was published and went viral. Two days later, after standing her ground in a press conference, Rapinoe responded on the field by scoring both goals in the Americans’ 2-1 victory over the host French, the defining win that made another trophy possible. Three times in the knockout rounds, Rapinoe faced the ultimate pressure of taking a penalty kick for her country in the World Cup. Three times she converted, including on the game-winning goal at the final in Lyon. By Sunday, even Trump backed off, tweeting: “America is proud of you all!”We’ll go there. Muhammad Ali is a singular figure in American life. But there are elements of a modern-day Ali in Rapinoe’s stance toward sports and social activism, to say nothing of her ability to turn the glare of publicity—much of it controversial—to her advantage. Who else would say with glee that she was looking forward to a “total s—tshow circus” in a World Cup quarterfinal and then make the most of it when it happened?“I’m made for this,” the 34-year-old Rapinoe said after the final. “I mean, I love it. Obviously, getting to play at the highest level in a World Cup with a team like we have is just ridiculous. But to be able to couple that with everything off the field and to back up all those words with performances and back up all those performances with words, it’s just incredible. I feel like this team is just in the midst of changing the world around us as we live, and it’s just an incredible feeling.”

The U.S. players are in the midst of suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination—though both sides have agreed to try mediation first—and in the heady moments after Sunday’s final whistle, the American Outlaws supporters group engaged in a lusty chant of “EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY!” The chorus rang through the stadium as Rapinoe accepted her awards and shared conversations with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, French president Emmanuel Macron and U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro.Rapinoe knows her power, knows that she has to win to maximize it, and she isn’t afraid to push the envelope deploying her influence.“Everyone’s asking what’s next and what we want to come from all this,” she said. “And it’s to stop having the conversation about equal pay and ‘Are we worth it?’ and ‘Should we?’ and the investment piece. What are we going to do about it? Gianni, what are we going to do about it? Carlos, what are we going to do about it? Everyone. It’s time to sit down with everyone and really get to work. This game has done so much for all of us. We’ve put so much into it. It’s a testament to the quality on the field, and I don’t think everything else is matching that. So how do we get everything to match up and continue to push this forward? Because I think at this point the argument that we have been having is totally null and void.”So thoroughly did Rapinoe back up her talk on the field that you half-wondered if she was impervious to the cascading criticism she was receiving from one side of a divided country, whether it was over her 2016 decision to take a knee during the national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick’s protest over police treatment of black Americans (U.S. Soccer later passed a rule requiring standing) or over her continuing protest of refusing to sing the national anthem or put her hand over her heart. But no, she’s human.“Megan actually is very sensitive,” her twin sister, Rachael, said last week when asked how Megan responded in private to Trump’s tweet. “But in regards to her profession she’s very good at compartmentalizing, so she doesn’t really get too rattled. I definitely gave her a lot of space. She wasn’t talking about it a lot, so I could tell she was trying to process it and not be too affected by it. When everything went down in 2016, at the time we had a different president. But now she’s not even protected by her own president. That’s something that’s almost surreal to me, that we have a president of the United States that’s essentially going after my sister, but also kind of the team, too.”But what a team these 19ers were. One of the greatest sports teams of all time? Probably. The most meaningful team in history? Perhaps, considering all the things the 19ers have represented to different people. The greatest U.S. women’s soccer team ever? Oh yes, certainly.“I do think this is a team that across the board is the best we’ve seen,” said no less of an authority than two-time U.S. World Cup champion Julie Foudy of ESPN. This was the first USWNT to win back-to-back World Cup titles and reach three finals in a row. Until the last game, it had scored in the first 12 minutes of every World Cup match in France before it. The U.S. won every game in its romp to the trophy, outscored its opponents 26-3, led for 442 of 630 minutes and never trailed. There was a raft of stories written during this tournament about the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., but that isn’t entirely true. While Europe is certainly improving, the U.S. is getting better too, maybe even at a faster rate.It would be easy to view the U.S.’s dominant run through this World Cup as an ass-kicking inevitability, a constant march onward and upward to back-to-back titles. Here we go again. But the journey over the past four years was anything but easy. In 2016, the U.S. suffered a quarterfinal elimination in the Olympics to Sweden—the U.S.’s earliest exit ever from a major tournament—in which Rapinoe, on the wrong side of 30 and not at full strength after a knee injury, looked like she might be finished on the international stage. Then in 2017, vowing to unlock more creativity in the attack, Ellis launched a period of experimentation (with formations and new players) that proved an old adage: Real change can be an ugly and uncomfortable process long before it becomes glorious.The grimmest night of all was March 8, 2017, at the SheBelieves Cup in Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium, when a thoroughly disjointed U.S. team went down 2-0 after nine minutes to France and ultimately lost 3-0. With Rapinoe not being called into the team in the wake of her taking a knee, Ellis tried a 3-4-3 formation, left several regulars on the bench—including Alex Morgan, Julie Ertz, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan and Kelley O’Hara—and produced a result that left U.S. fans and media howling after two home defeats in the three-game tournament.“I remember thinking after that loss that we had a long way to go,” O’Hara said last week. “But that’s kind of a good thing, you know? You don’t ever want to feel like it’s easy all the time and there’s no obstacles or need for growth. After 2016, [Ellis] put out a statement saying I’m about to put this team through an evolution that I feel is necessary to win us a World Cup in 2019. And as hard as that was—it was hectic and stressful and full of uncertainty for a lot of people—it was necessary. I respect her a lot for doing that and sticking to her guns, and I respect the individuals on this team and how we handled ourselves through that time.”

As Morgan added, “You have to give credit to Jill for looking at new things throughout the course of the last three years in order to see what the right direction was for us … When you have a chance to coach a team for two World Cups in a row, you’re able to learn a lot along the way, what worked and what didn’t. For Jill, it was a little bit of experimenting, and she did it in a way that a lot of people criticized. But at the same time, when you get to where we are now, you can’t help but applaud that.”Yet even the U.S. players bristled at times during Ellis’s tinkering, and after a 1-0 home loss to Australia in July 2017 at the Tournament of Nations, several veterans went to then-federation president Sunil Gulati and told him they had deep concerns about the direction of the team under Ellis—and that if those concerns weren’t addressed they wanted a new coach. The players had specific issues with what they felt was Ellis’s lack of communication off the field and the team’s declining performances on the field. At a meeting several months later, Gulati responded to the team (with Ellis in the room) that she wasn’t going anywhere before World Cup 2019, and Gulati’s replacement, Carlos Cordeiro, kept Ellis in charge.Winning has a way of easing tensions, however, and in 2018 the U.S. went undefeated as Ellis and assistant Tony Gustavsson, her offensive guru, landed on a 4-3-3 formation with an attacking style that was much more freewheeling than that of the 2015 World Cup-winning team. The linchpins were an explosive starting front line (Rapinoe, Morgan and Tobin Heath), an indispensable role in the defensive midfield for Ertz, and a remarkable depth (Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh as subs!) possessed by no other team on the planet. Concerns over the defense would continue into the World Cup, especially when it came to Hope Solo’s untested goalkeeping replacement, Alyssa Naeher, but Naeher proved herself when it mattered most by making two giant saves (one of them on a late penalty) in a 2-1 semifinal win against England.As painful as Ellis’s experimenting was in 2017, it also unearthed some gems. One of the starters in the France debacle was a 21-year-old midfielder from Cincinnati named Rose Lavelle, who was making her second appearance with the national team.“I got subbed out at halftime because I was pretty awful,” Lavelle said last week. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s like the top of the top. I need to get better, and that’s where I need to be in the next couple years if I want to compete for a spot on this team.’”Now 24, Lavelle was the World Cup’s breakout star, the creative maestro on the U.S. team in both the semifinal and the final. Watching Lavelle in full flight on the ball is exhilarating, the kind of jolt that people will always pay real money to witness in person. In the 69th minute of Sunday’s final, she found herself on the ball with a half-acre of space in front of her and went to work, bamboozling Dutch defender Stefanie Van der Gragt to create room for her left-footed knockout punch.“It’s so surreal that I just won a World Cup with people I grew up idolizing,” said Lavelle. “I can’t put it into words. It’s amazing.”Last week was a vindication for Ellis, the first coach to win back-to-back Women’s World Cup titles. She used nearly all the capital she had won in 2015 to remake her U.S. team after the Olympic failure, and that sometimes excruciating process paid off in France.“Coming out of the Olympics, it was a moment to kind of reflect and look at making sure we played competitive games and increased our roster in terms of finding players like Rose Lavelle,” Ellis said last week. “Sometimes it’s part of the growing pains when you want to shift something. But full credit to the players. You build the system around them. They’re the gasoline that makes it work. That process was to get to this point with players in their right spots.”Over the last three years, Ellis was especially supportive of her most Promethean players, even through long periods of injuries, whether they were Lavelle (hamstring), Heath (back) or Rapinoe (knee). Without them, the U.S. wouldn’t have won in France. As Foudy said, “Her most creative players, she has had a commitment to them to say, ‘I’m going to have patience. You’re going to get back.’ As a player it’s everything, especially at that level where it’s so cutthroat, it’s hard to feel confidence when you’re injured and away from the group. And Jill was willing to tinker. Sometimes you would hammer her for it, but you have to live through those moments to learn and grow. I think she’s been courageous in that way.”But the 19ers, like the 91ers, the 99ers and the 15ers before them, will be known for far more than what they accomplished in 90-minute segments on a soccer field.“The fabric of this national team,” Foudy said, “has always been it’s more than soccer.”This World Cup produced record numbers of viewers for women’s soccer in countries around the world, including Brazil (where 35 million people watched the France-Brazil round-of-16 game), China, France, England, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The USWNT now has an impact there, too.“In ’99, we envisioned this as a catalyst that would spark a global movement, but the reality is I think it was a domestic one,” said Foudy. “I see the 19ers as responsible for a global movement. We’re seeing the numbers, but even beyond that, they set an example for women on standards of expectations. There are so many countries who are finally standing up and saying this isn’t right, and they have the courage as a player to stand up in one of these countries and say, ‘This needs to be better, not just for us but for the next generation.’ I think a lot of that comes from them seeing this U.S. group do this at a level that’s unprecedented.”Meanwhile, the public pressure on FIFA to invest more of its $2.7 billion in reserves in the women’s game, particularly from Rapinoe, appeared to be having an effect. Infantino announced last week a proposal to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams, double the prize money to $60 million, double FIFA’s grassroots global investment in the women’s game to $1 billion and start a FIFA World League for women’s national teams and a FIFA Women’s Club World Cup. Rapinoe said it was promising, but she noted that his prize money proposal would mean the gap in prize money between the women and the men is actually increasing, not closing. After Rapinoe called out the FIFA president on Saturday, they had a brief conversation at the awards podium following the final.“There was a wry smile,” Rapinoe said with a grin. “He did say he’d like to have a conversation, and I said I’d love to.”That’s power. And after a World Cup that will put her in the canon of American athletic achievements, that’s Pinoe.

Women’s WC final viewers top men’s final in U.S. behind 2015 though

Jul 8, 2019Associated Press

The United States’ 2-0 victory over Netherlands in Sunday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final averaged nearly 15.6 million U.S. viewers on English- and Spanish-language television.It was the most-viewed match this season, but a decrease from the 2015 final.  The match averaged 14.27 million viewers on Fox, according to the network and Nielsen, and peaked at 19.6 million. It was a 22 percent increase over last year’s FIFA World Cup men’s final between France and Croatia, which averaged 11.44 million.  The audience was down 43.8 percent from the 2015 final between the U.S. and Japan, which averaged 25.4 million viewers. That match, though, was played in Canada and started at 7 p.m. ET, compared to Sunday’s final in France, which kicked off at 11 a.m. ET. The Telemundo broadcast averaged 1.3 million and peaked at 2 million as the match concluded.The match averaged 589,000 viewers online — 289,000 on Fox apps and 300,000 on NBC and Telemundo apps — which makes it the most-streamed Women’s World Cup match ever.  The CONCACAF Gold Cup final between the U.S. and Mexico averaged 2.9 million on Fox Sports 1, making it the most-viewed non-World Cup match in the network’s five-year history.The Copa America final between Brazil and Peru averaged 3.1 viewers on Telemundo. The ESPN-plus streaming service had the English-language rights, but the network did not divulge figures.

What’s next for Megan Rapinoe and the older USWNT players?

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7:46 AM ETGraham HaysespnW.com

LYON, France — Among the waves that Megan Rapinoe’s words generated during this World Cup, one of her first answers created barely a ripple at the time.As the U.S. team held its training camp in the days before its opener against Thailand, Rapinoe — before she became the lead character in the entire tournament — listened to an English reporter ask her whether this World Cup had special meaning because, he noted, it would surely be her last.She started to answer, spooling out some boilerplate about taking things as they come. But she doesn’t do boilerplate well. She paused, smirked and couldn’t go through with it.”I don’t feel like I’m that old,” Rapinoe instead countered.She didn’t look old Sunday, even as she became the first woman to start three consecutive World Cup finals. She didn’t look past her prime converting the penalty kick that put the U.S. ahead to stay in a 2-0 win against the Netherlands and earned her the Golden Boot. She didn’t look over-the-hill basking in the adulation of tens of thousands of fans after the final whistle or having a quick chat with French President Emmanuel Macron in the receiving line for medals.”I’m made for this,” Rapinoe said afterward, beaming.In those moments, 2023 didn’t look so far away.What the Golden Ball winner showed in those moments was much of what allowed this team to win the World Cup. The oldest team in the tournament, the U.S. didn’t exactly rebuild following the Olympic disappointment of 2016. It retooled, revitalized and reconfigured. Mixing old and young in a way so that the team didn’t look either one, it figured out how to occupy a moment in time.”We still want to sit outside and hang out at night and have a chat and banter and spend time together,” Kelley O’Hara said on the eve of the final. “It’s very refreshing to be a part of a group that, what we show on the field — having each other’s backs, taking care of each other, doing whatever we need to win for each other — is really felt off the field, as well.”The challenge moving forward for the U.S. is, how long can anyone or any team pause time like that? How long will some of these players, and perhaps their coach, even want to try?With the 2020 Olympics right around the corner, it would be at least a mild surprise if the weekend marks the final major tournament for many of the front-line American players. No team has yet won the World Cup and Olympics in back-to-back years. That’s a prize of its own, and all the more because so many of these Americans felt the sting of falling short in 2016.Carli Lloyd has long talked about this cycle, 2019 and 2020, as the final chapter in her story. But in the days before the final, she said she feels like she is in her prime — both in her skills and her fitness. She said she would keep going as long as she woke up every morning and wanted to put in the work.After coming off the bench in the final, her regular role in a tournament in which she started just once, she sounded less certain.”It’s been a really tough couple of years,” Lloyd said after the final. “It’s not based on my ability. And for whatever reasons, coaches make the decision. I tried to put up a good case. So I’m going to go home, I’m going to kind of let the emotions die down a little bit, speak to my husband and we’ll go from there.”It was just four years after she stood atop the soccer world at the end of a World Cup. She was days away from turning 33 years old then. Rapinoe turned 34 last Friday, the same age as Becky Sauerbrunn, who celebrated her birthday as the tournament got underway in June.Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn, the defender who spoke Sunday about how difficult this cycle was, remain among the best in the world at what they do. It would be a surprise if either walked away before the Olympics. But four years is a long time when you already have two World Cup medals and your body starts to remind you more and more often of the price paid to get them.All now 30 or older, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Alyssa Naeher, O’Hara and Christen Press enter their own limbo after strong World Cups. Lloyd and Rapinoe certainly showed in 2015 and 2019, respectively, what is possible. Lauren Holiday, who retired in 2015 before her 30th birthday, showed not everyone chooses that route.There was a lot of talk in 2015 about winning a championship for the veterans, most particularly Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone. Perhaps because the players who became veterans on this team all won titles four years ago, that wasn’t a topic this time around.This team was instead centered in the present. First, surviving the buildup to this World Cup, when it was an open and sometimes ruthless competition for roster spots after 2016. And second, trying to merge old and new talent together for this run in France, while traveling a far more difficult path than four years earlier.Perhaps that leaves the U.S. in better shape to move forward. Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis and Mallory Pugh are part of the new generation playing with Lloyd, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn. Together, they are ready for more power.”It’s always been about what is this team at its core?” O’Hara said. “And that’s been a team that has that grittiness, that bite and that never-say-die attitude. I think that’s something that we had to continue to make sure that we were embodying and almost passing on — instilling in the players that were new and the younger players that were coming in. Because it’s something that the older players instilled in me when I got on this team. For me, it was something that was very important and is still very important to make sure that’s something this team always embodies.”Odds are the U.S. will choose to run it back, to borrow a basketball phrase, at the 2020 Olympics. Maybe an Emily Fox, Hailie Mace or Andi Sullivan will slip into the mix as a further bridge to the future. But with Olympic rosters capped at 18 players, and assuming Jill Ellis returns with a new contract, there is every chance the team will look more similar than 2016 did in comparison to 2015.They may be able to stretch the moment in time that long. They’ve earned the right to try, if they want. Beyond that? Well, four years changes a lot.Which is why it’s all the more impressive that the final outcome for the U.S., despite all the changes from the previous World Cup, remained the same.”Obviously, I’m aware I’m not 25 anymore,” Rapinoe continued that June day after being asked about her inevitable exit. “Winning that last one seems so far away. And it was such a different team. It seemed like such a different squad of players. This group, we’ve had a difficult cycle. We’ve been up and down with performances and sometimes the results and not doing well coming off the 2016 Olympics.”I feel like this group feels that motivation and that desire to go and win it. I feel like I’m now a part of this group.”

The USWNT is on top of the world again, but the gap is closing

3:00 PM E Graham Hays  espnW.com

LYON, France — It was less than a decade ago that some members of the French women’s national team posed nude for a German publication, in what was essentially a protest on the eve of a Women’s World Cup. What would it take, the captions asked, to get fans back home to watch them play a sport that is otherwise a national obsession?When France and the United States played an epic World Cup quarterfinal in front of more than 45,000 in Paris, 51 percent of the televisions in use in the host country were tuned to the game.In England, where the sport’s domestic governing body outlawed the women’s game until 1971, that team’s semifinal against the U.S. was the country’s most-watched sporting event since the men played in a World Cup semifinal a year ago.After the Netherlands beat Sweden in the other semifinal, De Telegraaf, the nation’s largest newspaper, turned its entire front page over to the team reaching its first World Cup final — just as the paper did two years ago when the Dutch women won their first European championship.Welcome to the new normal.The United States is again on top of the world. The team everyone wanted to beat — and the team many invented reasons to hate — extended its own record with a fourth World Cup title and won back-to-back World Cups for the first time. On European soil, five of the best European teams the continent had to offer couldn’t stop it. Sunday made clear that the U.S. owned 2019.Yet the reality for 2023 and beyond was already clear: Europe no longer follows our lead. And even as the U.S. won this title Sunday with a 2-0 victory against the Netherlands, it watched a monthlong preview of a more complicated future.Or as U.S. coach Jill Ellis said before a game against Spain in the round of 16, it was only “a matter of time” until this sleeping giant of a continent awoke to the women’s game.With that in mind, picture where we are after Sunday’s win as a location on Google Maps. Zoom in and zoom out to study it from three different perspectives.The street view is 90 minutes of soccer. From that vantage point, the U.S. beat the Netherlands because it was too deep and relentless as the game wore on in the second half.Pull back the focus slightly more to a neighborhood view and Sunday is the final part of a World Cup cycle that encompasses at least the three years since the last Olympics and arguably all four years since winning the World Cup in 2015. Ellis will always have her detractors, but they will have to work to turn this into something other than vindication. She won with a team she didn’t have much say in shaping in 2015. She won with a team of her own making in 2019.But zooming out to the final and widest perspective, the global view, reveals what ought to keep Ellis and everyone else associated with American soccer awake at night.The U.S. has the deepest and most talented roster in the world. Its confidence and belief, collectively and individually, is unmatched. Its fitness is unmatched. It is the best in the world at the moment. But only at the moment because so many European teams — France, England and the Netherlands, certainly, but also Italy and Spain — have come such a long way in such a short time.”You now have, let’s say the right of women to play — you know, it wasn’t there 20 years ago,” Ellis said of the evolving European dynamic before the U.S. played its first knockout game. “Now you have that. To me, it’s a natural progression in terms of the development in these countries. Because they eat, sleep and breathe soccer.”Imagine what will happen if Europe maintains its rate of progression. The risk for the 2023 World Cup, or even next year’s Olympics, is that staying on top is partially out of American hands.”It’s no secret we have to get better on the ball,” Rapinoe said of the coming European wave after a win against France in which the U.S. had barely 40 percent of possession. “Playing better with it, better offensively, better in our possession and our passing. They were clearly much better than us in that tonight. So the level is just growing, it seems like every game.”We have, absolutely, our work cut out for us.”This wasn’t a monthlong phenomenon. The U.S. finished on the podium in just one of four Under-20 World Cups so far this decade. It didn’t finish among the top three in any of four Under-17 World Cups. Along with Japan, European teams from France, Germany and Spain dominated those events, with England and Italy in the top three as often as the Americans.For U.S. defender Ali Krieger, the lightbulb moment came while playing professionally in Germany more than a decade ago. Not far removed from playing college soccer at Penn State, she looked up during a Champions League knockout-round game and saw a 16-year-old teammate enter as a substitute. That’s a far cry from a high school game.”That’s the different mentality,” Krieger said recently. “They’re thrown into their professional system so early, and that’s why they develop these really good players at a young age. It’s just a different model. Obviously, I encourage everyone to go to [college] and have that experience. But if you want to be a top player in our country, you have to understand the basic principles of the game. And you have to understand them at a young age and really grow with the game because the game constantly changes.”At the time she was in Europe, it was more difficult to find that kind of professional setting outside of Germany and Sweden. That’s no longer the case. The winner of the Champions League in each of the past four seasons, Lyon leads the way. But viable leagues exist in England, France and Spain, countries not so long ago resistant to the women’s game. Manchester United added a women’s team last season. Real Madrid will field one beginning in 2020.Even FIFA refereeing czar Pierluigi Collina noted recently that after so many years of cultural neglect, his native Italy set television records as its national team advanced to the quarterfinals. The same Italy where Juventus just won its second domestic title in its second year as a team.France had been the flag-bearer for this new wave of European success, which only added to the pain of its quarterfinal loss. After reaching a World Cup semifinal for a second consecutive time, England is in the midst of turning domestic investment into international glory. The Dutch never made a World Cup before 2015. They came within a game of a world title.But almost as telling of the U.S. predicament was the first knockout game, when a Spanish team that qualified for its first World Cup in 2015 went toe to toe with the Americans.Now a member of Reign FC in the NWSL who played collegiately at the University of Alabama for two seasons, Celia Jimenez Delgado was part of that Spanish team and grew up in the same world Krieger described. She wasn’t a paid professional, but she played for Sevilla in Spain’s top division at 16. She lived hours from her family, her roommate a goalkeeper in her 30s, all while coming through a youth national system for which those youth titles are a byproduct of preparing players for the senior level, rather than a goal unto themselves.”Spain has a really specific soccer philosophy, or style of play, and I think that game has been developing for the past 10 years,” Jimenez Delgado said. “The investment from the federation and the institutions that support the sport, they’re providing more money and more resources.”At the end of the day, if you as an athlete take care of every variable you can control, but you’re not provided with a platform or the materials or the coaching staff to keep growing as an athlete, it’s harder to improve.”None of which is to say that the European game is without its own issues of sustainability and support, despite the influx of brand names behind teams. But no matter what happened Sunday in Lyon and no matter who coached the team or how that person constructed it over the past three years, that is the world the U.S. now inhabits. Social progress on this order rarely regresses. Girls who grow up in Madrid, Manchester and Milan will continue to play the game.That happened in the blink of an eye.Netherlands defender Merel van Dongen, 26, was the only player on the field Sunday who went to an SEC school. She was 19 years old when she left home to play on scholarship for the University of Alabama. As a teenage player at home, she recalled working multiple shifts at a restaurant during the day, then training for two hours after work.”Then I went to Alabama, where they had a budget for women’s football that was insane,” van Dongen said before the final. “The only thing I had to do was train and play, and they did everything for me. OK, I had to make good grades in school. But that was the difference, it was so professional. They [taught] me how to take care of my body. I thought I knew what training hard was until I went to the University of Alabama.”One of the reasons I’m here is what I learned in the United States.”Empires rarely vanish overnight. Rome produced emperors and influenced the world long after it was sacked by the Goths. And the U.S. still has massive advantages in women’s soccer.Even amid decreasing youth participation in the U.S., no European rival will ever be able to match the overall talent pool in a nation of more than 300 million people. And as Jimenez Delgado was quick to point out from her time at Alabama, Title IX creates a legally mandated equality of opportunity that isn’t the case in much of Europe. She came to the U.S. precisely because it is possible to mix playing soccer and studying aerospace engineering in college.But there are options now. The year after van Dongen left Alabama, the Netherlands qualified for its first World Cup. Two years after that, it won the Euros at home. Everything changed.”If you’re 18, 19, you don’t have to work seven hours a day to make your money,” van Dongen said. “Absolutely not. You get a contract and you work and you train and you become a professional. It even starts from younger ages — Ajax, for example, they have a youth academy. A lot of the teams have youth academies now, something that I always wanted but couldn’t do.”That’s also something I take from the United States, is that they have such a history and they have been building young players. And we’re doing that now as the Netherlands.”So yes, the demise of U.S. women’s soccer would be greatly exaggerated. Like Brazil in men’s soccer, the U.S. will continue to produce so much talent that choosing a national team roster remains a riveting storyline second in popularity only to second-guessing coaches. The U.S. will remain among the favorites in every tournament. Also like Brazil, it won’t win most of them — which the U.S. did in winning eight of the 14 major titles available to it between 1991 and 2019.But when it comes to identifying, developing and training the very best players among us, it also wouldn’t hurt to follow someone else’s lead for a change. Despite a four-month college season and a pay-to-play/win-at-all costs youth culture, the U.S. has succeeded in spite of these things in the past.It succeeded in spite of those things in 2019. It won’t forever. It won’t, at least to the extent it has, for much longer.”It was a matter of time,” Jimenez Delgado said in regard to Spanish success at the youth level translating to senior success. “For the results to start showing.”This U.S. team is the best in the world. The past month showed that time was up on the American game leading the way.

 

Player ratings: USWNT v. Netherlands

By Joe Prince-WrightJul 7, 2019, 1:32 PM EDT

The USWNT beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday in Lyon, as Jill Ellis become the first coach in history to win back-to-back World Cups.There were plenty of dominant performances from the U.S. women’s national team, but a few stood out above the rest as a star was born and veterans stood tall.Below is a look at the player ratings for the USWNT from the final.

Alyssa Naeher: 7 – Solid enough. Came off her line well in the first half. Didn’t have much to do.

Kelley O’Hara: 6 – Reliable at right back but a nasty head collision saw her taken off at half time.

Abby Dahlkemper: 6 – Still a little shaky and was caught out and booked in the first half. Got better throughout the tournament.

Becky Sauerbrunn: 7 – Took a nasty knock to the head but held the US defense together.

Crystal Dunn: 8 – Another brilliant display at left back and could have scored late on.

Julie Ertz: 8 – The glue that holds this USWNT team together. Superb defensive leader. Great tournament. Almost scored in first half.

Rose Lavelle: 9 – Her fine solo goal capped off a fine display and tournament. The newest USWNT star.

Sam Mewis: 7 – Went close with a header in the first half and proved she deserved to start over Horan.

Tobin Heath: 7 – Never stopped running and caused so many problems for the defense.

Alex Morgan: 6 – Went down easily in the box in the first half. Battled hard and won the PK. Not her best tournament.

Megan Rapinoe: 6 – She scored the penalty kick, whipped in a good cross in the first half and was named the official woman of the match, but again, a pretty quiet game.

Substitutes
Ali Kireger : 6 – Very solid at right back after replacing the injured O’Hara at half time.
Christen Press: 6 – Late cameo saw her open up the Dutch defense on a few occasions.
Carli Lloyd: 6 – Some trademark surging runs after coming off the bench in what could be her last USWNT game.

The US Rises to Third on the Overall Global Soccer Power Index!

By stephen.whiting on Jul 7, 2019, 9:58am PDT +  TWEET  SHARE  PIN 

Dear America,

Know and accept this fact: your country is a world soccer power.I know we Americans have been conditioned to think of other countries, far to the east or south, as the true heavyweights of the sport. Yet, of all those other soccer-playing countries around the world, there are actually only two that surpass the Red, White, and Blue on the global soccer power index. That’s right, only two countries in the world outpace our beloved United States as soccer powers.Let’s cut to the chase. There may be lots of ways to measure a country’s position in the global soccer pecking order, but here’s one that is simple to compute and objective: rank order all the countries in the world based on the number of FIFA World Cup championships each has won. To lift a World Cup trophy is an extraordinary achievement for a country and its soccer enterprise, and rarely (if ever) does it happen as a fluke. Winning a World Cup is the result of a country’s domestic soccer talent, its ability to develop that talent, and its organizational coherence to form a team capable of enduring the marathon that is a World Cup cycle. So, comparing the total number of World Cups each country has won is a measure of global soccer power because, “you are what your record says you are.”

In the history of global soccer, 29 official FIFA World Cups have been held for senior men’s and women’s teams. 21 on the men’s side and 8 on the women’s side, and only 11 countries (out of FIFA’s 211 member countries) have ever lifted one of those FIFA world championship trophies. Yes, it is factually true the Men’s World Cup is older and produces more revenue, but the Women’s World Cup is equally valuable as a measure of a country’s soccer prowess. There is zero rational reason to weight a Men’s World Cup championship any more than a Women’s World Cup championship as a measure of a country’s global ranking in soccer.

So, adding up the total number of FIFA World Cups each country has won produces our global soccer power index. And here it is:

Nation Total FIFA World Cups Men’s Championships Women’s Championships
Germany 6 4 2
Brazil 5 5 0
Italy 4 4 0
United States 4 0 4
Argentina 2 2 0
France 2 2 0
Uruguay 2 2 0
England 1 1 0
Japan 1 0 1
Norway 1 0 1
Spain 1 1 0

Perhaps not surprisingly, Germany is the world’s greatest soccer country. As the only country to win both Women’s and Men’s World Cups (in fact, it has multiple of each), the Germans have the most FIFA trophies in their display case, and they truly represent the pinnacle of global soccer. They remain a serious threat at any World Cup (women’s or men’s) to appear in the final and win the trophy. The old adage from Gary Lineker is almost always true (except when the American women are on the field): “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two [players] chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

The next team on the global soccer power index is Brazil, the spiritual home of the beautiful game. Brazil has produced geniuses on the ball, both male and female. They’ve come close to winning a Women’s World Cup to go along with their five Men’s World Cup titles (the most of any country), but it seems their women’s team has hit its high water mark (at least with this generation of players), and their men will be 20 years removed from their last World Cup title when the next tournament begins in 2022. If Brazil doesn’t win another trophy soon, the United States will tie them on the global soccer power index with one more title.

Germany and Brazil. Those two countries are stronger soccer nations than the United States. But, that’s it.

Here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, our soccer prominence is derived from the success of our women’s national team, the most successful women’s team on the planet—by far. Consistency in the World Cup is remarkably difficult, yet the American women have been dominantly constant, reaching the semifinals in all 8 women’s tournaments. Our men have a lot of work to do right now to prove they can once again be a dominant power in CONCACAF, let alone a team which regularly advances out of the World Cup group stage to challenge for a World Cup title. But soccer in all its forms is on the rise in the US, and the US men need to be better and should be better to reflect this overall improvement in the American soccer landscape and to match their counterparts on the US women’s team. But, none of this about the US Men’s National Team really matters right now, for it is due to the remarkable exploits of our women that the United States earns its #3 spot on the global soccer power index.

At this point, we will acknowledge that Italy is tied with the United States for third on the global soccer power index. Italy’s soccer success emanates from its men’s team, having won four Men’s World Cup titles, and reaching the semifinals on four other occasions when it did not win. Known for its defensive organization, the Azzurri are traditionally a threat to compete for a Men’s World Cup title, but they did not make the tournament in 2018—so they will have to prove they can get back to their winning ways. The Italian women’s team did make the quarterfinals at this most recent Women’s World Cup, but they will have to prove they can be a championship-level team in a rapidly improving UEFA women’s landscape.

That leaves a lot of other great soccer countries behind us in the global soccer power index:

– Argentina, thank you for producing two of the three greatest men’s players of all time. Messi is an ongoing wondrous soccer savant the likes of whom we may never see again (but it seems less and less likely he will ever lift an international trophy with Argentina), and Maradona remains…well, he remains Maradona. But, your women’s team hasn’t yet made a significant splash on the world scene as it was bounced in the group stage of this year’s Women’s World Cup.- France, you won a Men’s World Cup on home soil in 1998, were a head-butt away from another in 2006, and you lifted a second trophy last year in Russia, but your excellent women’s team failed to break through and win a World Cup trophy despite hosting this most recent tournament. If France’s women’s team can ever live up to their talent and expectations, and their men remain a regular contender, France seems primed to move up the global soccer power index in the years ahead.

– Uruguay, you were the first world soccer champion, and we still like watching your men play the game. But, what about your women’s team which has never qualified for a Women’s World Cup?

– England, as the country which invented this game, you still have an outsized influence on it around the globe. We enjoy the grainy film of your controversial 1966 Men’s World Cup victory over West Germany as much as any student of history, and the World Cup fortunes of both your women’s team and your men’s team (and your youth teams) are on the rise as you’ve been to the semifinals in the past two women’s tournaments and the last men’s tournament. It appears you’ve cracked the code on converting the terrific financial resources of the FA into success on the field, but will that actually lead to either of your teams lifting a World Cup trophy in the coming years?

– Japan, you are the technical wizards of the women’s game, and a pleasure to watch. Your men’s team is also a consistent World Cup team. But is either really a threat to win a world cup trophy in the upcoming cycles?- Norway, your single Women’s World Cup puts you on this list, but will you ever be able to reclaim your early glory in the women’s tournament? It certainly doesn’t help when Ada Hegerberg, considered by many to be the best women’s player in the world, doesn’t want to suit up for your team. And what about your men’s team? They haven’t made a World Cup since 1998.- Spain, your men’s team may have been the best team ever to play the game between 2008-2012, but can you get back to those heights? Your women definitely seem to be on the rise as well, and it will be fun to watch whether they can become a world championship side in the years ahead.This list doesn’t even include great soccer-playing nations which have come oh-so-close to winning a World Cup, yet have fallen short despite reaching a final: Netherlands and Sweden (both having reached finals at both the men’s and women’s tournament), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, China, and Croatia. And, other countries that consider themselves soccer powers of some sort, such as Mexico, Portugal, and Belgium, are nowhere to be found because this list is based on world championships.America, thanks to our terrific women, we now rightly take our place as the third best soccer nation in the world, standing shoulder-to-shoulder beside our Italian equals.It’s OK, America, if we still enjoy the soccer played in other countries, and our players still aspire to test their skills in foreign leagues. It’s also OK to say we need to improve in various ways across our men’s and women’s programs. But, let us never doubt our place in the global soccer pantheon again. Let us never apologize for our game, for our success, for our soccer heritage and traditions. They are just as valid, just as meaningful, and just as globally relevant as any other in the world, save for two.We are a global soccer power, no ands, ifs, or buts. All thanks to the US Women’s National Team.Four years ago, after Carli Lloyd led the United States Women’s National Team past Japan in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final, I shared an earlier version of this post with the good people over at Black and Red United, SB Nation’s D.C. United blog. Today, I post an updated version of this blog in light of the America’s outstanding women winning our fourth FIFA World Cup trophy, and singlehandedly moving the United States into third position on the table of soccer-playing nations.

19 USMNT things we learned (or didn’t learn) at the 2019 Gold Cup

Henry Bushnell,Yahoo Sports Wed, Jul 10 4:44 AM EDT

CHICAGO — The United States men’s national team entered the 2019 Gold Cup with two objectives. One was to win. And on a fiery night at Soldier Field on Sunday, it failed to do that.The first major tournament of the Gregg Berhalter era, however, was anything but an abject failure. Because the second objective was to learn. And that the USMNT certainly did. Players learned Berhalter’s system. He learned about them.And over eight games – two friendlies, six competitive ones – we learned as well.Those learnings are the subject of this Gold Cup epilogue, a look at both answers and questions that the past month unearthed.

1. The U.S. should qualify for 2022 comfortably

Let’s begin from 10,000 feet. The Gold Cup told us very little about the USMNT’s ability to reach, say, the 2022 World Cup quarterfinals. But the systematic breaking down of inferior opponents was encouraging with respect to qualifiers and the CONCACAF Nations League.The U.S. controlled games and attacked purposefully. It was relatively impervious to counters. There’s a slight outstanding worry that Central American and Caribbean pitches could disrupt Greggy Ball – as the Total Soccer Show has dubbed it. But gone are the days of USMNTs running around those fields cluelessly. This one has a plan. The possession-based approach will help it dispatch lesser foes – as it did over the past three weeks.

2. The big picture remains murky

It is still wholly unproven, however, against World Cup-caliber teams. And that has been the concern all along with a system predicated on “disorganizing the opponent,” as Berhalter puts it, with spacing and ball circulation in possession.To this end, the Mexico game provided both positive and negative indicators. We’ll dig into both below. My main long-term takeaway, though, was that the Americans’ willingness to shift their approach and play more direct was reassuring. Berhalter is far from a proverbial one-trick pony.

3. The adaptability of Berhalter’s system

The biggest lesson from the past month is Berhalter’s flexibility. There had been a concern among some that the new boss was married to specific formations, and to roles and ideas within them; that his commitment to that ideal would govern team selection; and that it would restrict his use of an already thin player pool. Club managers – which Berhalter had been his entire coach career – can mold their roster to their preferred systems. National team managers work with what they’re offered, and therefore often must mold roles to suit players. Was Berhalter willing to do that? Could he adjust withinthe system?The answer is yes.Berhalter has a favored attacking shape. It’s what we’ll call a 3-2-4-1. (It’s also been termed a 3-2-2-3 or 3-2-5.) Earlier this year, the USMNT would morph into it via a “hybrid” right back who’d “invert” into midfield, turning a base 4-1-4-1 into the 3-2-4-1.Berhalter went into June with Tyler Adams earmarked for that role. Then he lost the do-it-all 20-year-old to injury. He realized Nick Lima and Reggie Cannon were better as traditional, vertical right backs. So he adjusted. Gradually, throughout the tournament. Right backs pushed high, into the space previously occupied by wingers – who, rather than hugging the sideline, began tucking inside. Weston McKennie, the right sided attacking midfielder, began dropping into the space Adams would have “inverted” into. And … voilà – the 3-2-4-1 was alive and well.

Numbers by position: GK (1); RB (2), CB (5), CB (4), LB (3); DM (6), CM (8), AM (10); RW (11), ST (9), LW (7). (Animation: Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports via tactical-board.com)

In fact, in the Panama game, the U.S. had a third method for getting into it. From the 20th minute onward, defensive midfielder Wil Trapp would drop between the center backs. Both fullbacks would get forward. Both wingers would look for space infield. (See animation above.)With Tim Ream, a natural center back, at left back in every other game, the U.S. played asymmetrically. Ream would stay at home with the central defenders to create the back three. But with Daniel Lovitz in for him, and capable attackers at both fullback positions, Berhalter tailored the rotations to his players’ strengths.

4. Has The Pulisic Question been answered?

Berhalter also tailored the No. 10 position to the No. 10’s strengths. I wrote about that at length heading into the semifinal. The semi and the final drove home the answer to The Christian Pulisic Question even further. His best position with the U.S.? It’s whatever he makes it.Nominally, it’s a central position. But as Berhalter would say, Pulisic “interprets” that central position differently than others. He interchanges with Paul Arriola. He darts diagonally, in-to-out, when Arriola checks toward the ball, a run we’re hereby naming the “Pulisic run.”Movement like that bring out his winger qualities. His starting position brings out his central playmaking qualities. His defensive position alongside the striker brings out his counterattacking qualities – a crucial, under-discussed aspect of this debate. When the U.S. bypasses midfield, he can play off the central striker and gallop at goal.I used to be a “play him wide, especially against bad teams” guy. After the Gold Cup, I’m a “play him central” convert.

5. Defensive problems are in the details, not the shape

I’ve gotten questions and heard chatter about the shortcomings of, or even holes in, the U.S. defensive shape. And, to be honest, I’m confused. The Americans conceded two goals in 540 minutes of soccer. That’s … good? I think?The shape in question is a base 4-4-2, or 4-2-2-2, with Pulisic and the striker leading the press, and McKennie and Michael Bradley below them. It wasn’t the problem against Mexico. Actually, the problem was that the shape wasn’t enough of a 4-4-2 late on. When Mexico’s defensive midfielder, Edson Alvarez, would drop between the center backs in possession, the U.S. would go man-for-man. The striker would slide to the middle of a line of three. The right winger would step up and press Hector Moreno, Mexico’s left center back.This created a chain reaction. Right back Reggie Cannon would charge at Mexico’s left back. Matt Miazga, the USMNT’s right center back, would rotate over to Mexico’s left winger.That left Bradley and McKennie 2-v-2 – or sometimes 2-v-3 – in midfield. But only because Christian Roldan, for example, was playing like a third forward instead of a midfielder:/Yahoo Sports)That’s the buildup to the goal, which was mostly on McKennie. But a staid 4-4-2, with Roldan tucking in from the weak side, also could have prevented it.The point here is that no shape inherently does or doesn’t work. Effectiveness is determined by execution of it and details within it. The right winger’s defensive role wasn’t coherent on Sunday. Especially not in the second half, when legs got heavy and long pressing runs wore down already-worn players. The whole point of inserting Roldan was supposedly to shore up midfield … yet he defended exactly how Jordan Morris defends.This is a fixable problem, though. A detail within the 4-4-2, a small tweak to make against some opponents and ignore against others. And there will be other tweaks over the coming months and years as well. There’s no need for an overhaul.

6. Individual shortcomings weren’t glaring, but will be

In general, the vast majority of U.S. shortcomings – at the Gold Cup, and beyond – were and are personnel-related. They’re occasionally exacerbated by unfamiliarity with the system. I stand by most of what I wrote after the Venezuela game, even if some of it was overreactive: By 21st century USMNT standards, this crop of players simply isn’t that good. Not good enough to win Gold Cups, probably not good enough to get out of an average World Cup group.Of course, that sounds ridiculous, because the USMNT was good enough to win this Gold Cup. Three players who absolutely aren’t the problem – Pulisic, McKennie and Altidore – came up short in Sunday’s three biggest moments. But play that game a few more times – especially with both teams at full strength – and a small gulf in class would become clear.

7. Weston McKennie’s bumpy growth

McKennie wasn’t great against Mexico. He was awesome against Jamaica. He was sloppy against Curacao. He also scored the winner against Curacao. In five games, he was all over the place – in good ways and bad.But that’s expected of a 20-year-old. The mental lapses, the occasional discomfort in a complex system. It’s all par for the course. The most important development was McKennie’s grasp on his role. I wrote about that at length last week:McKennie opened the Gold Cup as something close to a No. 10. He was pushing high, lurking in between lines, looking to receive a forward pass on the half-turn and play another one. It’s a role he enjoys … but one that constrained him.Since, he has dropped deeper, from a Christian Pulisic-adjacent position to more of a Michael Bradley-adjacent one. And it has unleashed him. Opened up his soccer toolbox.It diversified his attacking game, and put an enforcer beside Bradley to keep Bradley protected. You can read the piece for a full breakdown, but the takeaway is this: Despite the inconsistency, Berhalter seems to have found McKennie’s best role. Now, if only Schalke would play him in it too.

8. Sunday’s contradictions

The most interesting aspect of the Mexico undoing were postgame explanations for it. As detailed here, everyone agreed the U.S. lost control of the game. Where players and coach seemed to differ was on what they should have done differently.Toward the end of the first half, Mexico started winning direct balls and coming right back down the USMNT’s throat. Berhalter, therefore, wanted his team to keep the ball; to use possession to halt the rising tide; to play his way.Some players, however, felt they could have doubled down on route one instead.This, as I wrote, is essentially a status report on the Berhalter era:

Until Sunday, Berhalter’s process had been humming. At half-empty American football stadiums, in front of pro-U.S. crowds, against inferior opponents, the U.S. rarely wavered from the boss’ approach. His teachings overrode their past tendencies, the freshly instilled philosophies uninfected by circumstance.On Sunday, that changed. Discomfort crept in. So did human nature.Inside players’ brains, in a way, there was likely tension: between what they knew and what they’d been told. In more serene environments, they had been able to adhere to coaches’ advice. In front of 50,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans with immortal vocal cords, the beer in their cups waiting to fly, adherence was much more difficult. Some might view the postgame contradictions as problematic. But there was rationale on both sides. Route One, after all, had worked early. As long as coach-player disagreement is measured, reasoned, and communicated properly, it can actually be healthy.

9. So … the striker position

The most puzzling aspect of the entire month was Berhalter’s management of his striker rotation. Altidore is, to almost anyone with a lick of soccer knowledge, easily the best American at the position. He’s the team’s second-best playmaker. His hold-up play is vital. And yet … he only got more than 65 minutes once all tournament – in the meaningless final group match against Panama, with the reserves.There were rumblings early on about fitness, but Altidore played 90 minutes for Toronto FC before arriving at U.S. camp last month. Berhalter eventually confirmed that Altidore was “exactly where we need him to be,” and had “been ready to play.”OK, so load management, then?After the final, Altidore stopped to chat with print/online media for the first time all tournament. Presuming he’d had discussions with Berhalter about load management, I asked him: “What went into the way that your minutes and playing time were managed throughout the tournament?”His reply: “I don’t know.”In response to a follow-up, he confirmed he was fit.So … we have absolutely no idea what Berhalter thinks of his striker rotation going forward. I asked Berhalter ahead of the quarterfinal whether Altidore was his No. 1 striker if fully match-fit. He gave a non-committal answer. If I had to pick my biggest criticism of Berhalter at his first official competition, his management of Altidore would be it.Even if he was saving Altidore for the semifinal and final, he didn’t give Altidore a chance to build up his match fitness. Or, he yanked a gas-tank-still-full Altidore in the 64th minute of a tie game. Or he doesn’t rate Altidore significantly ahead of Zardes. Either way, he was or is wrong.

10. Tyler Boyd emerged … then disappeared

We also have no idea why Tyler Boyd didn’t see the field in the semifinal or final. (I’m told he was not injured.) Starting Morris, for his direct off-ball running, made complete sense. Using Roldan and Lovitz off the bench in the final ahead of Boyd did not.In the short time we got to see the New Zealander, he seemed to have more upside than any other winger on the Gold Cup roster – though Arriola is better at present.

11. The player who helped himself the most …

… was Aaron Long. He barely put a foot wrong. He solidified himself as a starting center back, even when – er, if – John Brooks gets healthy.

12. Who else helped or hurt their stock?

The most pleasant surprise was Reggie Cannon, who went from not on the roster to 21st-birthday call-up to one of the USMNT’s better players in the final.Miazga was also excellent on Sunday after appearing to be second-choice through the quarterfinals (and after some lax marking on the Jamaica goal in the semis). Then again, the U.S. didn’t concede a single goal with Walker Zimmerman on the field.That positional battle in the center of defense probably speaks to a larger point: There are very few starting spots locked down for the foreseeable future. Probably only four. New players will be integrated in the fall. Competition for places is legitimate, especially as the attention now turns toward qualifying.

13. Zack Steffen, U.S. No. 1

One of those aforementioned four is goalkeeper. We didn’t necessarily “learn” that Zack Steffen is the No. 1, but the Gold Cup confirmed it. (Oh, hey, shameless plug for our feature on him.)

14. The vibe

The U.S. men are nothing like the U.S. women when it comes to personality and camaraderie. (In fact, the contrast can be pretty stark at times.) But the vibe around the team was generally good throughout the tournament. Players are receptive to Berhalter’s ideas and management style. They’re not all buddy-buddy, but for the most part get along with one another. There were no rumblings of rifts.

15. Berhalter’s captaincy rotation

Berhalter chose a new captain for each of the six games. It was Bradley, then Steffen, then Omar Gonzalez, then Pulisic, then Ream, then McKennie. It’s not a completely novel approach, but did raise eyebrows.Most captaincies, though, are symbolic anyway. The idea behind this scheme is that there isn’t one figure that others feel compelled to gravitate toward or fall in line with. Bradley, in a traditional sense, is probably the captain. But the whole point of what Berhalter calls “diversity of leadership” is that there isn’t one singular, domineering voice.Which, I guess, is all to say that this isn’t an issue – especially not three-and-a-half years out from a World Cup.

16 The big question: Where does Adams fit in?

As we turn our attention forward, and do some projecting of the future, the biggest question concerns Adams. He’s a sure-fire starter. Is he still a right back in Berhalter’s eyes? Meaning we’d revert to the “inverted” right back? Or is he a central midfielder, where he plays at club level?There’s no easy answer, in part because of the alternatives. Adams’ place in midfield would likely be the one currently occupied by Bradley – who, like him or not, is still one of the USMNT’s better players. Right back, meanwhile, is suddenly one of the team’s deepest positions, with Lima and Cannon both looking capable and DeAndre Yedlin returning from injury in the fall.We’ve seen Berhalter’s flexibility. We’ll see what he does here.

17. The current starting XI

What’s the USMNT’s starting lineup right now, if everybody’s healthy and a game against a team of Mexico’s caliber must be won tomorrow?I’ll go: Zack Steffen; Tyler Adams, Aaron Long, John Brooks, Tim Ream; Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic; DeAndre Yedlin, Jozy Altidore, Paul Arriola.

18. Who from the Gold Cup will be in Qatar?

Let’s frame the long-term look-ahead this way: Which players from the Gold Cup 23 are we more than 50 percent confident will be at the 2022 World Cup?

My list: Steffen, Long, Miazga, Bradley, McKennie, Pulisic, Arriola, Altidore.

(That’s eight. For what it’s worth, eight of the 23 from the 2011 Gold Cup made the 2014 World Cup roster. This time, the gap is five months longer. But this time, hopefully, the coach is the same.)

19. What about 2022 starters?

Similar question to wrap this up: Which players from the Gold Cup 23 are we more than 50 percent confident will start a 2022 World Cup opener?Factoring in the slim possibility the U.S. doesn’t qualify, my list cuts off at four: Steffen, Long, McKennie, Pulisic.

I look forward to being very wrong.– – – – – –Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports

Mexico delivers harsh lessons to the USMNT

3:22 AM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

CHICAGO — Throughout this Gold Cup, United States manager Gregg Berhalter spoke of nothing less than winning the tournament. Given the strength of Mexico’s side — even one shorn of players such as Tecatito CoronaChicharito HernandezCarlos Vela and Miguel Layun — the odds of that happening seemed long.So the Gold Cup was always going to be about more than winning. It was going to be about gaining experience for the younger elements of the U.S. squad, as well as a manager new to the international game. It was also about absorbing tough lessons, and boy did the ones delivered in Sunday’s 1-0 Gold Cup final loss to Mexico hurt.One of the lessons is as old as the game itself: A team playing a more talented opponent simply has to take its chances, and the Americans didn’t, especially early in the match. Both Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore failed to convert clear breakaways in the first 10 minutes, with Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoasaving Pulisic’s effort and Altidore failing to put his attempt on target. Paul Arriola darted through and beat Ochoa to a ball in the 31st minute, but could only roll his tight-angled effort wide. Jordan Morris had a header cleared off the line by Andres Guardado in the 51st minute.It was at that point that the game turned irrevocably, and it was time for U.S. to be handed some different lessons, most notably in terms of game management, both on the field and on the sideline. Berhalter never did have an answer for the tactical adjustments made by Mexico counterpart Tata Martino, in particular Martino’s moving of Rodolfo Pizarro to the right flank where he could run at Tim Ream, a center-back attempting to play left-back.Pizarro had already been a huge presence in the first half, teeing up Andres Guardado for a 16th-minute chance. Pizarro’s influence only increased in the second half, and the same was true of his teammates. Mexico’s grip on the game tightened. The U.S. proved incapable of keeping the ball. And after pounding on the door — with multiple shots going right at U.S. keeper Zack Steffen — Mexico finally carved out a goal of quality. Of course it was Pizarro in the middle of it, and his pass to Raul Jimenez was back-heeled to Jonathan dos Santos whose bending shot beat Steffen in the U.S. goal.So just how did the game get away from the U.S.? The assessments varied.”It became a very vertical game, and it opened up a lot of space,” Berhalter said postmatch about the second half. “We needed to avoid that by being able to keep [the] ball, being able to move the ball side to side, moving more horizontally rather than vertically.”We were rushing attacks in the second half, much too direct, and it cost us energy.”Berhalter added, “I think what we lacked was I think some of the confidence, some of the composure. We knew it was going to be a big event, we knew it was going to be a semi-hostile crowd. And I think what I’d say is the confidence is what we lacked. Mexico certainly had it.”Both Bradley and Altidore spoke of how the U.S. struggled to find the first pass when it regained possession.”We’ve got a young team, and I think there’s moments of growth there,” Altidore said about the second half. “I think if you look at that 10-15 minute period, we lost the game a bit. We were trying to play out of the back and stick to our guns and try to get up the field a bit, get in their half and try to change the momentum a bit.”The team’s inexperience in some parts of the field was evident as well, and was especially true for Weston McKennie. The Schalke midfielder was handed the captain’s armband, a surprising move given the presence of more experienced players such as Altidore and Michael Bradley. Whether it was the armband or the strength of the opponent, the occasion proved to be too heavy for McKennie. His passing was labored, and he lost dos Santos on Mexico’s goal.Berhalter’s attempts to combat the game’s change in fortune were mixed. Bringing on Cristian Roldan for the struggling Morris in the 62nd minute made some sense. Gyasi Zardes coming in for Altidore two minutes later, not so much. Both substitutions conveyed a message of being defensive in posture and playing to get to extra time.The introduction of Daniel Lovitz for Tim Ream was a head-scratcher given that Tyler Boyd was available, though Berhalter explained himself in his postmatch news conference.”When we brought on Cristian, the idea was to help us keep possession,” he said. “It was to help us overload the center of the field. I thought we had a difficult time in the center of the field tonight. We felt like he was going to give us the help that we needed centrally, and I think he did well.”With Gyasi, it was a case of legs, just getting fresh legs. It’s very hard to press Mexico if you don’t have the stamina, if you’re not ready to spring really hard. Jozy put in good shift. We were using him a lot, and I think he did a good job. But we needed some legs there.”In Daniel’s case, at the end of the game we wanted width, we wanted to move our wingers inside and get some crosses into the penalty box. We were willing to risk more staying with a two-and-one on the back line, getting our fullbacks high, tucking our wingers inside and trying to create pressure that way.”Berhalter’s moves regarding Altidore remain perplexing. The drop-off in play by the U.S. in each of the last two matches when Altidore departed was clear. At the least, Altidore could be counted on to occupy the opposition center-backs better than Zardes. Altidore was at a loss to explain it as well. Speaking to English-language media for the first time in weeks, he insisted that he felt fine when he was subbed out.”I felt really good, I felt strong. I felt like I was affecting the game,” the U.S. forward said.When asked about how he his minutes were managed in the tournament — he was the first player subbed in each of the last two games, and prior to that saw Zardes start most of the matches — Altidore said, “I don’t know. I felt good, or else I don’t think I’d be here.”The extent to which the U.S. can parley the experience of Sunday’s final, as well as the whole tournament, into continued growth is the big question going forward. Certainly the team looked more cohesive as the tournament went on. And while McKennie struggled in the final, and Pulisic’s finishing touch went missing on the night, it should be noted that both players showed progress over the last several weeks. The same was true of a back-line that conceded just two goals in the entire tournament.”We have a quality team, and we believe in a lot of the young players,” said Berhalter. “We think that at the end of the day, we need to gain experience. A game like this is perfect for us. It was a big occasion, a lot of the players first time playing in a game like this, and we need to learn. We weren’t ready for the step tonight but we will be ready.”The U.S. is still the beneficiary of lowered expectations as well as mediocre competition in the tournament. Given how many players Mexico was missing, it’s clear that a significant gap between the two sides remains. But the U.S. needed to start this cycle somewhere. Reaching the Gold Cup final isn’t a bad first step.

 

Armchair Analyst: Clinical Mexico put USMNT to the sword July 8, 201912:47AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

No matter that the US men’s national team made the Gold Cup final, there are still questions. No matter that they often played flowing, enjoyable soccer – including and especially in the first half against Mexico – there are still questions. No matter that they had young players step up all over the field, no matter that they only gave up two goals throughout the tournament while scoring 15, no matter that they smashed a pair of teams (Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica) that really needed smashing, and a dose of reading from the book of “Turnabout is Fair Play,” there are still questionsNo matter that The System™ mostly worked, and a lot of what Gregg Berhalter’s been trying to do was vindicated by mostly linear progress (the Curacao game excepted), there are still questions. Here are a few:

  1. Can Tyler Adams manage the game from defensive midfield in the same way that Michael Bradleyso often did?
  2. Is there any other No. 9 in the US pool who can do the hold-up play that made Jozy Altidoreirreplaceable?
  3. Is there any upgrade available at left back?
  4. Can The System™ be more effective with Paxton Pomykalat central midfield and Christian Pulisic at left wing rather than Pulisic in central midfield and Paul Arriola at left wing?
  5. Will Weston McKennie continue to improve at central midfield – i.e., will Schalke actually play him there this coming season?
  6. Will we see a return to the hybrid RB/DM of the first four games of the Berhalter era, or continue with the more common overlapping right back we saw in this tournament?

These are all important questions, and there are at least a half-dozen others that need to be asked as well. But they’re questions that come from within the context of a team that’s both discovered and embraced an identity, and whose next 12 months have to be about leaning into it. They’ve asked and answered the “who are we?” question – it’s an answer I mostly like a lot, by the way – and now it’s about “how do we make who we are better?”

That’s the long view, and it’s a good one. Now a few thoughts from the game itself:

  • Things spun out of controlin the second half of the game after a first 45 in which the US had, I would argue, the better of play (and unquestionably had the better ideas). Tata Martino made two decisive moves, flipping Rodolfo Pizarro to the right side and pushing both fullbacks much higher than they’d gotten in the first half.Pizarro, who’s arguably been the best player in the last two editions of the Concacaf Champions League, was both an attacking menace and a defensive improvement, as he neutralized US left back Tim Ream as a distribution hub. Ream’s ability to pick passes in the first half was often the path forward for the US, and in the second half it no longer existed. It changed the game, and tilted it decisively in Mexico’s favor.Meanwhile the pushed-up fullbacks further cut off the US ability to play from the back. There were no open avenues.
  • Central midfield tracking hasworried me throughout the tournament, and central midfield tracking is what led to the game’s only goal:

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This is on McKennie. This is what it looks like when a talented player just switches off, when he lacks the awareness necessary to make match-winning plays. That’s been the knock on McKennie at Schalke, and it was the knock on him throughout the tournament.I’m, nonetheless, mostly encouraged by his overall performance. He found more of the game as the tournament went on and generally was more awake to danger match by match. He had the best one of his career against Jamaica in the semifinals, and he did some good things against Mexico in before that frustrating, naive final hour.And that’s the lesson: It’s so often a game of moments. Mexican veteran Jonathan Dos Santos has the reps to understand that, while 20-year-old McKennie doesn’t.Yet.

  • The other big, game-defining momentscame in the first 10 minutes of the game when first Pulisic and then Altidore missed chances they should’ve finished. The expected goals total for the game said as much:

Here’s the truth: If, at the start of the month, you’d offered me a 1-0 loss in the final with the US playing well but Mexico just being a bit more ruthless and clinical in the final third, I’d have taken it. I think most fans would’ve as well.Offer me that on top of the fact that the US really did seem to look like they knew what they were doing in the build-up and became progressively better at executing it, and I can’t complain too much.I know most feel differently. I don’t.

  • I’m going to borrow a line frommy buddy Tutul Rahman, who you should follow on Twitter: The biggest thing is if Berhalter learns from this. Specifically the next six months have to be pushing the player pool and getting less cute with tactical changes. He has a system that works and now he has to improve it by aggressively integrating younger players, and moving Pulisic to his natural wing spot, and figuring out how to vary the defensive shape a little bit out of the 4-2-2-2 and into more of a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 that adds numbers to central midfield. Sometimes it really is that simple — just a numbers game.Mexico won it tonight. Tata did a good job, and Jona seized the moment. Mexico, despite struggling against Martinique, Costa Rica, Haiti and the US, are once again the kings of Concacaf. They were the better team in the biggest moments, and when you do that over the course of an entire month, at the end of it you get to lift a trophy.It’s a good lesson for this young US group — coach included — to learn.

Bradley and Morris too slow, get 4/10 as U.S. lose Gold Cup final to Mexico

Jul 8, 2019Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer

The rebuild for the United States finally hit a wall on Sunday in the Gold Cup final with a 1-0 loss to Mexico in Chicago.

Jonathan dos Santos‘ second-half goal was the difference, while Gregg Berhalter’s first competitive tournament as USMNT manager ends with a handful of positives and a host of bigger questions.

Positives

The Americans came out on the front foot in the first half and looked to be the better team for large stretches of the opening stanza. Via Jozy Altidore‘s hold-up play and Christian Pulisic‘s ability to dribble defenders, the United States created dangerous chances that should have resulted in gaining the lead. Defensively, the USMNT frustrated Mexico’s attempts to play through width.

Negatives

Following the promising first half, the U.S. quickly lost control of the game following the break. A poor performance from midfielders tasked with linking the defensive line and the attack limited what the Americans could do. The wasted chances in the first half point to a problem with finishing that may dog the team going into the future.

Manager rating (out of 10)

5 — Berhalter got a lot right and the opening half spoke to the progress the United States has made under the new head coach. But the lack of second-half adjustments and a series of questionable substitutions keep the grade down. In his first test against the USMNT’s biggest rival, Berhalter fell short.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Zack Steffen, 6 — Slightly questionable with distribution. Hard to fault for the Mexico goal.

DF Reggie Cannon, 6 — Another strong performance for a young player emerging in the tournament. Naive with decision-making in the attacking end.

DF Aaron Long, 7 — Excellent for most of the night. Made one obvious mistake in the first half. Dominant in the air.

DF Matt Miazga, 6 — Passed into pressure when the U.S. struggled to play out of the back. Very good defensively, including in one-on-one situations.

DF Tim Ream, 4 — Played a safe and defensively focused left-back. Made several good defensive stops. Put under pressure in the second half and mostly held up, though with significant help.

Michael Bradley was caught out by the lightning-quick Mexico attack in the USMNT’s 1-0 Gold Cup final loss on Sunday. John Dorton/ ISI Photos/Getty Images

MF Michael Bradley, 4 — A step slow to disastrous effect on a number of occasions, including on the lone Mexico goal. Struggled with passing and turned the ball over frequently in the second half.

MF Jordan Morris, 4 — Too slow with decisions, particularly when defending. Popped up with an excellent headed chance cleared off the line.

MF Weston McKennie, 4 — Did plenty of necessary work defensively. Did not pass well. Failed to impact the game on the attacking end.

MF Christian Pulisic, 7 —Fantastic on the run with the ball at his feet. Dangerous all night. Met the physical challenge of the game.

MF Paul Arriola, 5 — Not secure with the ball. Limited going forward by defensive requirements on the left flank. Put Mexico under pressure with energy and created a chance out of nothing.

FW Jozy Altidore, 6 — Missed a golden chance in the eighth minute. Did immense work with hold-up and passing. Battled for an hour-plus and won most of the physical confrontations.

Substitutes

MF Cristian Roldan, NR — Battled up the wing to help the U.S. regain a foothold in the game.

FW Gyasi Zardes, NR — Provided one flick-on for Pulisic.

DF Daniel Lovitz, NR — Made a short appearance. Wasteful with the ball.

MLS W2W4: Lodeiro, Pity headline superstar showdown in Seattle

Seattle Sounders and Atlanta United’s rabid fan bases have been huge staples of Major League Soccer. Be sure to tune in to ESPN on Sunday at 3:55 PM ET. (2:45)

8:41 AM ETArch BellU.S. soccer writer

MLS teams are returning to full strength following the conclusions of the Gold Cup and Copa America, and a pair of matches on ESPN this weekend should provide plenty of entertainment, with the Seattle Sounders hosting Atlanta United, and D.C. United facing the New England Revolution. Also, north of the border, rivals Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact will clash for the first time this season.

Superstar showdown in Seattle

Transfer rumors always add an extra layer of intrigue to proceedings, and we’ll have plenty of that when the Seattle Sounders host Atlanta United on Sunday (3:55 p.m. ET, ESPN).  For about the millionth time since he arrived in Seattle, midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has been linked with a move back to Boca Juniors following his comments in an interview in which he expressed his affinity for the Argentine club where he played prior to joining Seattle.It may be that one day Lodeiro will end up back in the Bombonera, but for now the sense is that his near-term future is in Seattle. He’s under contract until 2021 and is the cog in Seattle’s attacking wheel. Still, the talk will remain as long as Lodeiro expresses his affection for Boca.The love for a former Argentine club is a trait shared by ex-River Plate man Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez of Atlanta United. Since arriving in Georgia from River after winning the 2018 Copa Libertadores in epic fashion, Martinez has struggled in his new digs, with just a goal and four assists.That has prompted its own share of transfer speculation, with TyC Sports of Argentina claiming that Atlanta wanted to loan out Martinez, a report that Atlanta boss Frank de Boer quickly dismissed.  Anyone who watched Martinez at River knows his creative capabilities, and it’s worth remembering that his adjustment at River in 2015 took time as well. Perhaps Atlanta won’t see the best of Pity until 2020, however they could certainly use a glimpse or two in the Pacific Northwest.

Revs get a big summer Bou-st

The summer transfer window is just a few days old but the New England Revolution have landed a haymaker with the signing of Gustavo Bou.

The Argentine is a proven goal scorer wherever he has played. The fact that he had 10 goals in the Liga MX Clausura with Tijuana suggests he could be even more prolific in MLS. If Brian Fernandez‘s early success with the Portland Timbers after a good season at Necaxa is a hint of things to come, Revs fans can feel optimistic.

The combination of Bou and Gil could turn New England into a force to be reckoned with this fall. It remains to be seen if Bou will debut on Friday night at D.C. United (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), but those in the nation’s capital know all too well the impact that a big summer signing can make after Wayne Rooney‘s stateside arrival a year ago. Unfortunately for Rooney, partner in crime Luciano Acosta will be missing due to suspension, giving a New England team with a spring in its step all the more motivation.

New arrivals in Canada

Saturday’s Canadian Classiquebetween the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) arrives at an interesting moment for both teams.o continue the transfer theme, Ignacio Piatti is another player who has constantly been linked with a move back to his native Argentina, but Impact president Kevin Gilmore made it clear that Piatti won’t be leaving anytime soon.That will be a relief to the Impact faith ful, but the wait continues for Piatti to return from an injury that will keep him out until summer’s end. The Argentine danger man has played just five matches this season, yet manager Remi Garde somehow has the Impact sitting fourth in the East.On the other side, TFC boss Greg Vanney has been missing many of his key pieces due to international duty, but Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are back in the fold, while new arrivals Omar Gonzalez and Erickson Gallardo should give Toronto a good shot in the arm. With Toronto teetering on the playoff line, Vanney needs contributions from those four to become a contender.

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN RETURN TO USL CHAMPIONSHIP ACTION IN REMATCH AT HARTFORD ATHLETIC

By IndyEleven.com, 07/10/19, 5:15PM EDT   Boys in Blue Seek to Extend Undefeated Streak at Hartford’s Dillon Stadium – 5:00 P.M. ET Dillon Stadium  |  Hartford, CT       

FOLLOW LIVE: Local/National TV: N/A   ESPN+  Streamig Video: ESPN+ (click for a free 7-day trial)  Radio: N/A

SETTING THE TABLE:

Indy Eleven: 10W-2L-4D, 34 pts., 2nd in Eastern Conference

Hartford Athletic: 2W-12L-4D, 10 pts., 18th in Eastern Conference

Click here for the full USL Championship standings

LAST TIME OUT:

Indy Eleven  1 : 1  Louisville City FC  |  Saturday, June 29

Indy Eleven claimed a point from the first of two 2019 Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest (LIPAFC) matchups against the defending USL Cup champions. Midfielder Tyler Pasher scored the game’s first goal in the 9th minute, notching his seventh of the season and fifth in the month of June. Louisville leveled the score in the 55th minute after Paolo DelPiccolo’s Goal of the Week winning free kick found the back of Indy’s net.

#HFDVIND STORYLINES

  • Indiana’s Team will be looking to be rude housewarming guests this Saturday, when it will serve as Hartford Athletic’s first opponent at the renovated Dillon Stadium, an 84-year-old venue that received a $13 million facelift by Athletic ownership group Hartford Sports Group.
  • With its 1-1 draw against Louisville the last time out, Indy Eleven extended its undefeated streak in USL Championship play to 10 matches (6W-0L-4D), which is tied with Ottawa for the second-longest such streak in USLC this season and three games behind Tampa Bay’s season-starting 13-game undefeated run.
  • However, the LIPAFC stalemate also resulted in the end of the club’s record-setting five-game win streak.
  • Indy Eleven is also looking to extend its unbeaten streak on the road to three games, as the side hasn’t lost a match on the road since its 2-1 defeat to NYRB II on April 28. The only other away loss for the Boys in Blue – or any loss in league play, for that matter – came in the season opener on March 9 at St. Louis FC (1-2), which puts Indy’s impressive away ledger at 5W-2L-0D.
  • Midfielder Tyler Pasher looks to continue his red-hot hot month of June into July. The Canadian scored five goals and recorded one assist in six games last month, resulting in a well-deserved place among the USL Championship’s five Player of the Month nominees.
  • Indiana’s Team hopes to continue its four-game winning streak against 2019 USL Championship newcomers on Saturday night, having claimed all 12 possible points against expansion sides this season: 1-0 vs. Hartford (March 9), 3-0 at Memphis 901 FC (June 8), 2-1 at Loudoun United FC (June 15), and 3-0 vs. Birmingham Legion (June 26).
  • Former Boy in Blue Wojciech Wojcik will face his former club for the second time in 2019. Wojcik made 22 appearances and scored two goals from 2015-16 with Indy.
  • Hartford forward Jose Angulo is no stranger to facing the Boys in Blue as he’s made appearances against Indiana’s Team with Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL), where he made 47 appearances and scored 11 goals.
  • Fellow Hartford forward Giuseppe Gentile is also familiar with the Boys in Blue, having squared up against the Indiana’s Team every year since 2015 as a member of now six different NASL and USL Championship sides.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH | DF MITCHELL OSMOND

Osmond put up another stout defensive 90-minute shift against Louisville City FC last time out, tallying two tackles, two clearances and a game-high six interceptions against the back-to-back USL Cup champions.Minutes came few and far between at the start of the season, but Osmond made the most of his recent six-match stint in the starting XI, which largely coincided with Neveal Hackshaw’s national team duties with Trinidad & Tobago. In the last 540 minutes of regular season play, the 25-year-old has accumulated 16 tackles, 17 clearances and 15 interceptions. Additionally, the University of Rio Grande graduate has completed over 85 percent of his passes on the season, created two chances on goal and has put his single shot on frame. But perhaps the most important number regarding Osmond is 0.50 – that’s the number of goals allowed per game with Osmond on the backline, the team conceding just thrice during his six June starts.

HARTFORD ATHLETIC PLAYER TO WATCH | MF HARRY SWARTZ

Swartz has been potent in front of goal for Hartford Athletic during his 10 appearances for the club. The 23-year-old has scored three goals for Hartford throughout the month of June, leaving him tied with forward Jose Angulo as the team’s leading goal scorer nearly halfway through the club’s inaugural season.The Massachusetts-born midfielder boasts an incredible conversion rate at 43 percent, scoring all of his goals within the first 30 minutes of the match. The objective will be to keep Swartz from finding space within Indy’s penalty area, as the scorer has scored his trio of goals from inside the opposition’s 18-yard box.

MATCHUP TO MARK | INDY FW THOMAS ENEVOLDSEN VS HARTFORD DEFENSE  If defense wins championships, then Hartford Athletic is in trouble. The club currently finds themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, having conceded the most goals in the Eastern Conference and the second most across the league at 41. Hartford’s defense has allowed 13 goals in their last five matches played, which can only spell good news for Indy Eleven forward Thomas Enevoldsen.The Dane is tied with striking partner Dane Kelly for second most goals scored at four through Indy’s first 16 games, but his impact isn’t just felt from the back of the net – he’s equally as adept at creating attacking danger as well. The 31-year-old has created the most goal scoring chances of anyone on Indy Eleven’s roster with 37 key passes, tied for sixth most chances in the Eastern Conference. During the most recent three-game-in-seven-day stretch, the Danish striker accounted for two goals after scoring against Birmingham Legion (June 26) and assisting on Tyler Pasher’s first-half goal against Louisville City FC (June 29). Enevoldsen and the rest of the Indy attacking corps will be chomping at the bit heading into the fixture against a porous Hartford defense.
Don’t miss out on the Boys in Blue’s return to USL Championship play this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. ET when they head off to Hartford Athletic. Catch all the action live via ESPN+or follow along on the Indy Eleven Live Twitter feed, presented by Honda.

Carmel FC Summer Soccer Camps – July 15-18 9-12 pm Beginner Camp $150

Carmel FC Summer Soccer Camps – July 15-18 3-5 pm Elite Player Development Camp $150

CHS Boys Soccer Skills Camp – Murray Stadium July 15-18 8:30-10:30 am ages 8-14 $85

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6/28/19 US Ladies vs France Fri 3 pm Fox, US Men vs Sun 9 pm FS1, Indy 11 home Sat 7 pm, Copa & Gold Cup this Weekend & Next Week

WWC – USA

Good win for the US ladies – even if it took 2 PKs – 1 of them really soft To win the game with Spain 2-1.  The good news is the US only gave up one goal – on a silly pass out by GK Nauer to Centerback Becky Saubraugh (sp).  It was Nauer’s fault for passing to a player under a high press – but Becky also blew it and gave up the pass leading to the only goal scored against the US this WC.  Spain came out playing super rough – as the number of takedowns on Alex Morgan and Rapinoe were certainly above 10 each – and only 1 yellow card was thrown on Spain.  The reffing in this game was pretty poor – as many more fouls and yellow cards should have been thrown.  The US did a good job of womaning-up and stepping up their physicality as the game wore on.  It was a shame the US couldn’t find a goal in the run of play – and had to rely on a soft PK to win it in the end.  But honestly there were multiple takedowns of US players in the box – that were not called – so perhaps the 2 calls were just in the end.  As for the US play- I thought coach Ellis waited WAAY to late to call on our subs.  Alex Morgan was beaten up and not playing well up top – but stayed on until the 80th minute before giving way to Lloyd.  The US was the better team in the opening half but was really outplayed in the 2nd half overall.  The Defense continues to be the weak point of this team – and the addition of Julie Ertz in the midfield did not help.  We were continuously broken down – and Crystal Dunn at left back was of course EXPOSED again.  I counted no fewer than 8 crosses that came from Dunn’s left side.  The outside back’s responsibility is to not give up crosses folks – and Crystal Dunn (a forward) does not do this.  Fortunately the US center backs covered most of the crosses into the box. I still think Ellis needs to seriously consider actually playing a defender at left back vs France instead of Crystal Dunn – because while she is good going forward she is a nightmare on defense and is going to cost the US at least 1 if not 2 goals vs France.  I would also consider bringing Horan back in as D-mid, she’s just better at both covering the backline and dribbling/passing out of pressure than Ertz.  Move Ertz back to center back and perhaps consider moving a center back to left back or bringing in Rt back back-up Ali Krieger on the left side is something I would consider honestly.  If the US plays the same line up – we will give up at least 2 goals to France – and will have to hope we can simply outscore them.  Either way this should be an exciting game – 3 pm kickoff on Friday vs France on Fox – with coverage starting at 2 pm.  The winner should be the favorite to win it all.  GO USA!

WWC

Again the games have all been great – and fun to watch. I was disappointed in the Classless display by Cameroon vs England.  Cameroon certainly had some VAR decisions go against them – but honestly the calls were right.  Their refusal to restart after the 2nd goal was allowed by England, and then a Cameroon player spitting towards the ref and another one running over the ref later – were unbelievable and should have probably been red-carded.  They stomped and moped and cried about the calls – then started trying to hurt the English players late with some questionable tackles. This combined with the coach’s disdain and refusal to get his players in line – were honestly a disgrace in my mind and hopefully the African Soccer Federation will take action if FIFA does not.  Marta and the entire Brazilian team were inspirational in their comeback attempt vs Norway –another just fantastic game overall.  7 of the 8 teams in the Quarterfinals are European teams – showing how far the European Clubs adding female teams have helped the sport come along in Europe.

USMNT – Gold Cup

So the US hasn’t always looked great – but they are just 3 games from the Gold Cup finals in Chicago– which is where we all expect them to be.  After slaughtering a helpless T&T Sat night, they emptied the bench vs Panama as 11 new players came in for the 1-0 win on a nice bicycle by Jose Altidore.  While it was nice to see Altidore score – It appears Berhalter is set on Zardes as the US #9 for now.  I am ok with Altidore coming off the bench in the 70th if behind.  We still have needs at left back – I sure wouldn’t mind seeing Lima flip over to the left side – like he does for his club – allowing Reggie Cannon to remain a started on the right back side – he looked good vs Panama.  The US will return to play Sunday at 9 pm on FS1 vs Curacoa before an expected US vs Jamaica rematch on Wed night 9:30 pm game on FS1.

Indy 11 – Blue-Out Sat 7 pm vs Louisville

Our Indy 11 scored an impressive 3-0 home win Wed night over Birmingham.  The victory improved the club’s record-winning streak to five games and lifted Indy Eleven (10W-2L-3D, 33 pts.) into a tie for first place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference alongside the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The result also extended the Eleven’s undefeated streak to nine games (6W-0L-3D) and its home unbeaten streak at Lucas Oil Stadium dating back to last July to 16 games (10W-0L-6D).Goals early and late by Tyler Pasher and Thomas Enevoldsen, respectively, bookended a Legion FC own goal. Pasher’s game-winning goal was his fourth game-clincher in Indy’s last seven contests and his team-leading sixth tally of the season. Carmel FC Goalkeeper Coach and Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr made four saves en route to his second consecutive clean sheet. He has started the last 3 games since Newton was injured vs Memphis with 7 saves, 5 clearances and 2 clean sheets. The shutout for Indy Eleven was the tenth in its first 15 games this season, and the seventh in eight home contests in 2019.  The Boys in Blue will host rival Louisville City on Saturday night at 7 pm at Lucas Oil Stadium – It’s a BLUE-OUT as fans are asked to wear BLUE vs the Red Louisville City.  I plan to be there!  Tickets start as low as $15 and can be purchased here indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100

Local Goalkeeper Wins USL Player of the Week – Eric Dick

Former Carmel High School and Butler Goalkeeper Eric Dick claimed USL Save of the Week honors last week for Swope Park Rangers.  Dick on load from Kansas City FC – was Goalkeeper of the Year in the Big East in his final season at Butler.  He grew up in Carmel and played at Carmel Dad’s club as a youngster – keep up the Great Work Eric!

CFC_GK_Cash

Carmel FC Summer Soccer Camps – July 15-18 9-12 pm Beginner Camp $150

Carmel FC Summer Soccer Camps – July 15-18 3-5 pm Elite Player Development Camp $150

USA Ladies – World Cup vs France Fri 3 pm Fox

US or France – the Debate ESPN

Pressure on US vs France – NBC Joe Prince Wright

Any Questions About How the US Will Bounce Back from Mistakes- Answered – Graham Hayes ESPNFC

US – Spain Bullies US Pays Price with PKS – Stars  & Stripes

Rapinoe –Trump spat won’t Distract Team – coach says

VAR Controversy Plays On – S&S

African Soccer Wants action against Cameroon for Poor Behavior – ESPNFC

USA Men – Gold Cup

Doyle: What there was to like about US win Doyle – mls.com

– Davis: Altidore showed flashes of old vs. Panama

Why Berhalter rotated USMNT starting XI vs. Panama MLS.com

Gold Cup Bracket: Quarterfinals are set

As questions swirl, US find answers on the field

US Ratings: Who got top marks against Panama

Boys Tuning in to US Ladies More – Washington Post

T&T Win is Step Back for USMNT – S&S

Indy 11

Indy 11 Win 5th straight Game

Indy 11 Are First in USL Championship with 10 Wins

3 Things Indy 11 coming into this Week

Goalkeepers

Great Saves in the World Cup

Keepers Showing Out at World Cup

Chile GK Endler Was Player of Game vs USA

Endler fantastic save

Triple Save New Zealand Keeper

Former Carmel High School and Butler Goalkeeper Eric Dick claimed USL Save of the Week

USL Saves of the Week

GAMES ON TV

Fri, June 28

3 pm Fox                     WWC QF France vs USA

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA Venezuela vs Argentina

8 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA Colombia vs Chile

Sat, June 29

9 am Fox Sport 1                    WWC QF Italy vs. Netherlands,

12:30 pm Fox Sport 1             WWC  QF Germany vs. Sweden

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA QF – Uruguay vs Peru

4 pm ESPN                              Minn United vs Cincy

  • 7 pm ESPN+, Myindty Indy 11 vs Louisville City

7 pm FS1                                 Gold Cup QF Haiti vs Canada

10 pm FS1                               Gold Cup QF Mexico vs Costa Rica

Sun, June 30

2:30 pm ESPN2                       Euro U21 Final

5:30 pm FS1                            Gold Cup QF Panama vs Jamaica

9 pm FS1                     USA Men vs Curacao – Gold Cup

Tues, July 2

3 pm Fox                                                 WWC Semi Norway/England vs. USA/France

8 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA Semi

10:30 pm FS1                          Gold Cup  Mexico/Costa Rica vs Canada/Haiti Winners

Wed, July 3

3 pm Fox Sport 1                    WWC Semi Germany/Sweden vs. Italy/Netherlands

8 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA Semi

9:30 pm FS1                            Gold Cup Semi  USA/Curacao vs Jamaica/Panama Winners

Sat, July 6

11 am Fox                               WWC  3rd Place Game

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA 3rd Place Game

Sun, July 7

11 am Fox                               WWC  FINALS

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA FINALS

9 pm FS1                                 Gold Cup FINALS

Gold Cup TV Schedule June 15– July 7

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

International Champions Cup Schedule July 16-Aug 18

 France or the U.S. in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals? We debate

Jun 26, 2019ESPN

Since the Women’s World Cup draw last December, the U.S. women and France have been on a collision course to clash in Friday’s quarterfinals (9 p.m. local time, 3 p.m. ET). It’s the defending World Cup champ against the host, the No. 1 team in the world versus the co-favorite to win it all.So what are the X factors and key players that will most impact their match at Parc des Princes in Paris? ESPN UK’s Tom Hamilton, ESPN FC’s Julien Laurens, ESPN Brasil’s Natalie Gedra and ESPN’s Sam Borden, Graham Hays and Alyssa Roenigk — all of whom are on the ground in France — tackle the tough questions.

Which team is under more pressure: France at home or the U.S. women facing a potential second consecutive quarterfinal exit in a major tournament?

Hays: The opportunity is greater for France. Television numbers for the host’s group games cooled only slightly from the record-smashing opening game. And while on the ground, it doesn’t always feel like World Cup fever is sweeping the land yet. The event and the French team have very visible presences. But the French can rationalize a loss to the defending champion and No. 1 team in the world, especially a valiant loss. For the United States, in such a crowded sports landscape and with how invested members of the team are in using their platform for advocacy, bowing out before the semifinals of a major event again would be costly on and off the field.

Roenigk: The U.S. women. They’re the tournament favorites, the defending champions, the top-ranked team in the world and, yes, the team is still recovering from the sting of the Rio Olympics. Anything less than a World Cup win will be seen as a failure.

Laurens: The pressure has to mostly be on the defending champions, the U.S. This is the best team in the world right now so being knocked out at this stage would be a failure, especially after losing in the quarters in the 2016 Olympics. France is also under pressure because a loss in the quarters would be disappointing. However, there would be no shame in losing against this impressive American side.

Borden: France. In addition to playing at home and trying to follow up the championship performance the team’s colleagues turned in at the men’s World Cup last summer, a loss to the United States also means the France women’s team can’t qualify for the Olympics next summer since the top three European finishers at the World Cup get the Olympic spots. With seven European teams in these quarterfinals, this match is, in effect, a double-elimination game for France.

Hamilton: Great question. There are so many subplots to this match, but the pressure is more on the U.S. France has had a mediocre tournament so far, and its home support will be demanding a win, even though this team is the underdog. The U.S. started this World Cup in dominant fashion, and the world expects it to end up winning the tournament, so the pressure is on them to deliver.

Gedra: France, for sure. The French people are very much involved with the tournament, and they were not expecting to face that much difficulty as they did against Brazil. The French are expecting not only a good performance, but a win.

Which players are key for France and the United States?

Roenigk: The U.S. front line, specifically Alex Morgan, who has been largely absent since her record-tying, five-goal onslaught against Thailand, and has drawn more attention — and more penalties — than anyone on the U.S. roster. On the flip side, center back Wendie Renard (France’s leading goal scorer this tournament) and the French defense will be charged with stopping a fired-up American side. Aiding France? An extra day of rest since its round of 16 match.

Hays: Beyond the obvious suspects, what does France coach Corinne Diacre do with Gaetane Thiney? The veteran who resurrected her international career after falling out of favor with previous regimes has been a mainstay for Diacre, but she didn’t start against Brazil when the manager changed formations to get more speed on the flanks. Midfield is also an area to watch for the Americans, especially Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz. The United States missed Horan when she didn’t start against Spain but will need her ability to conduct the attack while maintaining a physical presence against the French. And it’s not a coincidence that Ertz didn’t play in a 3-0 loss to France in 2017 or the 3-1 loss earlier this year. She’s the best bet to break up French rhythm.

Borden: Renard having a strong game is critical if France is going to control the U.S. attack, and she’s a threat on set pieces that the Americans have to be constantly monitoring. Kadidiatou Diani has had an incredible motor in the French midfield and can do damage if the U.S. slacks. For the United States, Horan has the ability to break through what will probably be a physical game and impose herself, while goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and defender Becky Sauerbrunn have to bounce back from a combined bad mistake against Spain to be at their peaks.

Hamilton: Eugenie Le Sommer has to deliver for France but the key player will be Amandine Henry. The captain needs to ensure her team remains unwaveringly focused for 90-plus minutes if France is to knock over the U.S. And for the world champions, the Americans need goalkeeper Naeher to put in a near faultless performance. She made an error against Spain, which led to a goal in the U.S.’ 2-1 win. She cannot let the same happen against France.

Laurens: For France, Sarah Bouhaddi will have a huge role to play in this game. So far, the defense has been quite solid for Les Bleues, but Bouhaddi will get properly tested Friday by the Americans. And she will have to have the game of her life for France to be able to go through. Henry will be key in midfield against the energy and movement of the U.S. midfielders. Up front, this is a game for Le Sommer to shine. Even on the left-hand side, she has to be effective and decisive. For the U.S., Ertz is the key. She is the brains, the power and the heart of this team. If she bosses the midfield, the Americans will win. The front three will obviously have a huge role to play too. Sauerbrunn, who could be the weakest link in this team, will have to step up.

Gedra: Henry showed she can make a difference with her quality and experience. And Le Sommer can create a lot of trouble as an aggressive winger. That is why, besides the big stars, a good defensive performance from the U.S. will be key.

Which part of each team’s game will their opponent have to prepare for most?

Borden: The U.S. women have to be ready for an even more physical game than the one they endured against Spain, particularly because France is even more capable of turning turnovers into real chances. France will have to keep up with the Americans’ speed and relentless drive, which will be made even tougher by the expected heatwave — the United States has more players who are accustomed to playing in oppressive temperatures than does France. If they have to chase the game, that will be a factor.

Laurens: Both teams know each other so well. France has to match (or try to at least) the U.S.’ intensity. The French know how quickly the Americans attack and push forward, how much the midfielders press, how high the full backs play. So they will have to stay well organized and disciplined while keeping the ball as much as possible. On the other hand, the Americans will have seen France’s potential on set pieces. But also the mental strength of this team. The U.S. is in for a battle on Friday and they have to get ready for it.

Hays: A strong case can be made for set pieces in both cases. Renard is unique in the problems she creates because of her height and agility on set pieces. There are a lot of reasons the United States might keep Sam Mewis in the starting lineup, but her height in defending set pieces should be near the top of the list. But as Sweden’s coach said, the U.S. women might have the biggest binder of set plays in the world, so France must also keep to a minimum the free kicks and corner kicks it gives away. The United States also has struggled for years, and through a variety of outside backs and formations, to deal with French speed on the flanks.

Gedra: The French attack makes fast transitions, so the U.S. needs to be aware of that. As for France, it’s facing the team that shows the highest level of sophistication in this WWC. The U.S. has variations and can be patient with the ball. Diacre will have to prepare the team for that.

Roenigk: For the U.S. women, it’s depth and a bench that forward Megan Rapinoe has called “the deepest we’ve ever had” — which has allowed coach Jill Ellis to rotate and rest her starters, as planned. France will rely on its physical defense, technical ability and a mentally tough team that knows how to win. Seven players on Les Bleus also star for Lyon, which has won the Women’s Champions League six times.

Hamilton: Both teams will be on red alert over their opponent’s attack. France is likely to focus on its play down the flanks with Diani a key outlet on their right; Rapinoe is going to be fired up for the Americans. But with two offensive teams, there is going to be plenty of space on the counterattack, so expect to see the U.S.’ two attacking full backs suddenly spring into action, while France will be looking for opportunities to return favor.

Which team has the edge in goal?

Borden: Even before Monday’s mishap, Naeher was more of a liability than Bouhaddi. While Naeher is a World Cup rookie, Bouhaddi has been France’s No. 1 since the 2015 World Cup. She won’t be cowed by the pressure Friday night.

Roenigk: Naeher will learn from an early mistake against Spain and prove herself to be not only worthy of this gig, but one of the best in the world.

Hays: Some American fans will worry because they haven’t seen Naeher in a game like this. Some French fans might worry because they have seen Bouhaddi. Most of the time, Bouhaddi is a wonderful goalkeeper. She’s athletic, aggressive and experienced. Her ability to play long passes jump-starts the attack, even if she tends to linger with the ball in her hands well beyond what the rules allow. But for just about her entire international career, Bouhaddi has had one or two moments during a game — coming out rashly, playing the ball into traffic, etc. — that scare her own fans to death. Both sides might be white-knuckling this game.

Laurens: Bouhaddi has the edge. She has a lot of experience. She has played this kind of game before, at the World Cup, at the Olympics, at the Euros. She has won six Champions League titles. Also, she has played with Morgan and Rapinoe at Lyon. She knows them very well. On the other hand, this is all new for Naeher. She has waited many years for this chance but she is inexperienced. I think the pressure can get to her.

Hamilton: The error against Spain aside, Naeher is the more complete goalkeeper than her counterpart Bouhaddi. But Bouhaddi’s distribution is second to none in this World Cup.

How much does the recent history in the series (3-3-2 since 2014) matter?

Laurens: Even if every game is different, I think it is important for the French to know they have beaten the U.S. before, that they know how to beat them and that they can do it again. Psychologically, they don’t fear the U.S. because of some of the the recent French success. There are a lot of things the French admire about this American side: the mentality, the power, the talent, the self belief. In many ways, this France side wants to be like this U.S. side. And beating them would be like the apprentice beating the master. However, I don’t think the U.S. cares too much about the past against the French though. They are so focused, driven and ambitious.

Hays: It’s everything. Nothing better underscores France’s growth than the fact no team in the world has given the U.S. such consistent fits in recent years. France shut out the United States while scoring multiple goals twice since 2015. The last team to do that even once, other than France, was Norway more than a decade ago. And that doesn’t even count France’s 3-1 win earlier this year, at the start of the U.S. preseason. The French ability to match the Americans athlete for athlete, giving away little in fitness, confounds a team used to clear advantages there.

Roenigk: History matters to journalists, statisticians and commentators and is a lot of fun to discuss prematch and postmatch. But during those 90 minutes Friday night, past performances mean nothing.

Borden: Not much. At this level, the top women’s teams face each other often enough that there never figured to be many secrets. The question is which team executes better? Neither was particularly impressive in the round of 16, but looking at the tournament as a whole, the U.S. women have probably been a touch sharper.

Hamilton: It means very little. This is knockout football in the Women’s World Cup in Paris, in front of the Tricolore, with La Marseillaise ringing from the stands, with pockets of stars and stripes, with the backdrop of the USWNT’s battle for pay equality, with France hoping to inspire a nation. It is going to be epic.

Gedra: Not much, because the circumstances are different this time: France is playing a World Cup quarterfinals at home with a loud supporting crowd and high expectations. That changes the scenario compared to previous head-to-heads.

Predictions

Borden: In a hard-fought, physical game, the U.S. women get a second-half goal from Horan to just take it 2-1.

Hays: The crowd in the stadium might be split, but the streets of Paris will be full of the Tricolore after France wins a thriller.

Roenigk: The United States advances to the semifinals 2-1 over Les Bleus in extra time.

Hamilton: Expect extra time, and for Rapinoe to win it on a penalty. The U.S. wins 2-1.

Laurens: France will win 1-0.

Gedra: It’s a tight match and the U.S. squeezes by France 2-1.

 

World Cup quarterfinal: Heat is on USWNT v. hosts France

Joe Prince-Wright  NBC Sports•June 27, 2019

 

It will be close to 97 degrees in Paris on Friday as France swelters in a severe, unexpected heatwave.The U.S. women’s national team will also be feeling the heat at the Parc des Princes (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET online via Telemundo Deportes) as they face the much-fancied tournament hosts in a mouth-watering World Cup quarterfinalFrance versus the USWNT sees fourth play first in terms of their FIFA rankings, as the reigning champs struggled by Spain in their Round of 16 clash and know that the pressure is on them to deliver and keep up their incredible record of at least reaching the semifinal stage in every single Women’s World Cup in history.The fact they’ve failed to beat France in their last three games against them, including two defeats with the latest loss coming in January, means that the pressure is cranked up a few notches as the eyes of the world lock in on Paris.“This U.S. team lives in pressure. When you are young and come into this program, there is always a target on your back,” head coach Jill Ellis told the media. “This is a big game, the players know that. You’re wired for this and built for this. Some teams visit pressure, but we live there. Are there going to be some nerves? Sure. There is a lot at stake. They are wired to handle it.”Much of the talk ahead of this game has been about President Donald Trump and his reaction to comments from co-captain Megan Rapinoe who said she is “not f****** going to the White House” if the USWNT win the World Cup.

Those comments were to a magazine, Eight By Eight, in January and have gone viral in recent days after the video clip was released.Rapinoe addressed Trump’s comments — the U.S. president said that she “should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her and the team” and to “be proud of the flag that you wear” — and said she stands by what she said and would urge her teammates to follow her lead.Back to the action on the pitch, Rapinoe is fired up, as she elaborated on her eccentric comments about facing the hosts in Paris on Friday in primetime“The secondary market for tickets is wild. Looking at this match, what it means for the tournament, it is a huge game and our chance to play the host nation in a World Cup,” Rapinoe smiled. “For me, these are why you play all of the thousands of friendlies, training on your own and grinding away. I think it is going to be a fantastic match. It will be fun and it will be a great stage for both teams to go out and enjoy themselves.”France’s head coach Corinne Diacre put it bluntly when talking about the expectation levels on France against the USWNT, who have plenty of fans supporting them every step of the way in France.“We have no pressure when we play USA,’ Diacre said.So it’s over to Ellis’ team as they are focused on spoiling the French party in what should be an epic battle between two teams littered with stars, as Wendie Renard, Eugenie Le Sommer and Amandine Henry lead the French charge and the likes of Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Alex Morgan will be front and center for the USWNT.“From where we were four years ago and from where France were four years ago, we are both stronger teams,” Rapinoe said Which team will be strong enough to better handle the inferno of expectation and reach the final four?

Any questions how the U.S. will bounce back from mistakes? Not anymore

2:42 PM ETGraham Hays  espnW.com

REIMS, France — For all the goals, celebrations and wins of the past two weeks, the World Cup in some ways began Monday for the United States with a mistake.Not a cataclysmic error or a failure of character. Just a mistake.But World Cups can turn on one mistake. This one, resulting in the U.S. allowing its first goal in 674 minutes, didn’t. Not yet.With the ball at her feet, the place where she has the best claim to being among the best goalkeepers in the world, Alyssa Naeher picked the wrong pass. With Spain already pressing the U.S. with vigor bordering on recklessness in the opening minutes of Monday’s knockout game, Naeher played a short pass to defender Becky Sauerbrunn to begin a buildup.She hesitated uncharacteristically before the pass, as if unsure which teammate to choose. It still might not have mattered, but Sauerbrunn’s own hesitation receiving the pass allowed Spain’s Lucia Garcia to steal the ball and find Jennifer Hermoso. With Naeher pulled out of her goal, Hermoso lofted a shot that rose over Naeher’s hand and found the back of the net.”I think I just tried to do a little bit too much,” Naeher said of the goal. “Shouldn’t have played that ball into a pressure pocket. Probably a smarter decision to just play it a little bit higher up the field. But things happen when you try to play. Unfortunate way to give up a goal, but I thought we responded well.”That sequence in the ninth minute led to the first goal the U.S. conceded in the World Cup — and the first time it was so much as tied at a score of more than 0-0 in the knockout rounds since 2011. It also wiped out the momentum the Americans thrive on. Two minutes earlier, Tobin Heath drew a penalty that Megan Rapinoe capitalized on.”Obviously, with pressure like that, just need to get rid of it,” Rapinoe said. “I think we all kind of came together like, ‘It’s fine, it’s early.’ Obviously, getting an early goal for us, those things are going to happen. … Just stay in it and have each other’s back. “We’ll watch film, and they won’t do that again in that exact same way.”The goalkeeper and the back line responded on this day by keeping a clean sheet the rest of the way. Busier than they were in any of the first three games, maybe all three games combined, the defensive effort after the equalizing goal gave the U.S. the breathing room it needed to pull out a 2-1 win and move forward in the tournament.In the end, Spain pushed for one more tying goal. At one point, Naeher rose to get to a ball ahead of a Spanish player, then stayed on her feet through the end of the subsequent play only to fall the ground in a collision.While otherwise praising Naeher before the World Cup, former U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry noted it’s impossible to know how someone will react to major tournament adversity until they experience it. It didn’t mean she thought Naeher couldn’t. She just didn’t know. Couldn’t know.The miscommunication or miscue between Naeher and Sauerbrunn could have been more costly. The U.S. never did control this game, even as it fought throughout for the upper hand.The game could have gone to extra time. It could have gone to penalty kicks, like the 2016 Olympic quarterfinal against Sweden that derailed a U.S. effort. It could have unraveled.But it didn’t. And now Naeher has some of that experience, too.”When you get out into the knockout rounds, it’s always so much more pressure, so much more tense out there,” Rapinoe said. “Everything matters, every play matters. Every sort of wave of the game is important. I think halfway through the second half, it was like we need to take this up a notch. Obviously, there’s quite a few of us that have been there in these big games and sort of realize those moments. And that experience was really big for us tonight.”Whether or not the World Cup began for the U.S. on Monday, it didn’t end.

All eyes turn to Paris

There will be plenty of time this week to hype a game that has already received its share of hype, a quarterfinal in Paris between the teams that entered the tournament as betting favorites.And Rapinoe, for one, is ready for the fun. Even if she picked a different word.”Hopefully, a complete spectacle,” Rapinoe said. “Just an absolute media circus. I hope it’s huge and crazy. That’s what it should be. This is the best game, this is what everybody wanted. I think we want it, seems like they’re up for it … all the fans. Maybe it will be a pretty even split between the fans in the stadium. We’ve been traveling pretty deep in this World Cup.”I hope it’s just a total s—show circus. It’s going to be totally awesome. I think this is what everybody wants.”

VAR smiles on the United States

It wasn’t the first VAR review for the U.S. in this tournament, or even the first to involve a penalty kick, but it was the most important for the defending champion. And fittingly for this World Cup, it will leave its own trail of controversy. With extra time looming and the U.S. still short on quality scoring chances in the second half, Hungarian referee Katalin Kulcsar awarded a penalty when Rose Lavelle was clipped as she chased a ball across the box in the 71st minute. Replays showed minimal contact, albeit contact nonetheless, by the Spanish defender after Lavelle reached the ball.After Spanish players gathered around the ball in a delaying tactic that was likely unnecessary given the frequency of VAR reviews in this World Cup, Kulcsar jogged over to the sideline, watched the review and held her ground on a penalty as the correct decision.Alex Morgan stepped up to take the initial penalty, but Rapinoe said she was instructed during the delay to stick to the team’s established protocol and take the penalty herself.”It’s ultimately the coach’s decision, so the ball went back to Pinoe,” Morgan said. “I’m happy taking it, I’m happy giving it to Pinoe.”

The physical price of success

On a hot day, with temperatures at about 90 degrees at kickoff, and with the U.S. on three fewer days of rest than its opponent, Monday’s game was always going to be a physical challenge for the Americans.Spain then pressed and pressed on that pressure point, looking almost like North American rival Canada in its willingness to go in hard on every challenge. It was a style of play Kulcsar allowed from the outset, but she was consistent in allowing it. Everyone on the field for the U.S. seemed to take their share of the hits, but Morgan was perhaps the most frequent recipient.”I got a knock last game, but luckily I recovered,” Morgan said. “Maybe the Spain players saw that and wanted to be a little more aggressive with me. But I feel like, if anything, it took them off their game more than it took me off mine.”Just as in the game between the teams in January, Spain showed off the possession game for which it is known, nearly equaling the U.S. with possessing the ball 46% of time. But the physical play was a new twist that reflected a World Cup knockout game instead of a winter friendly.”I don’t remember that being this physical, this aggressive, this reckless — in challenges at least,” Morgan said. “For me, that was a little different. I wasn’t expecting that. At the same time, we were able to capitalize on that with penalties.”

Spain is coming

The contrast was stark between the challenges France and the United States faced in this round. France held off one final push from Marta, Christiane and Formiga, the stalwarts of a Brazilian team that has tantalized with its potential for more than a decade. It isn’t clear what Brazil will look like when next on this stage.The team the U.S. faced Monday is just getting started. Whether it was reckless or courageous, or maybe a little of both, Spain brought showed a fearlessness few opponents exhibit against the Americans. All the more from a team that has just one all-time World Cup win and had played the United States just once in its history.Spain wasn’t intimidated by the opponent or the stage. It is already well on its way to building the kind of talent pool that will allow it to win these games soon enough.Her eye puffy from a first-half collision that resulted in her coming out of the game, Vicky Losada chose to focus more on what’s ahead than the penalties that doomed her team Monday.”I think we have a really good future,” Losada said.

Ellis: Rapinoe-Trump spat won’t distract USWNT

12:23 PM ETGraham HaysespnW.com

PARIS — With one of the most anticipated games in the history of women’s soccer a day away, United States coach Jill Ellis and veteran forward Megan Rapinoe attempted Thursday to shift the focus away from any confrontation with President Donald Trump and toward a World Cup quarterfinal between tournament co-favorites at the Parc des Princes.

Ellis said the off-field controversy that built through the week wouldn’t be a distraction for the U.S. in Friday’s game against France, because players on the world’s top-ranked team are familiar with the spotlight that both their success and frequent advocacy for social issues brings.”We all support Megan,” Ellis said. “She knows that. We know we have each other’s backs in there.”I think for our players, there is only one purpose, one mission that we’re here. Comments, media, whatever, it’s always been something that I think we can block out pretty easily.”In a statement she made Thursday before declining to take further questions related to the controversy, Rapinoe said she regretted only her choice of words in a video released earlier this week by the soccer magazine Eight by Eight. In that video, she said she will not accept an invitation to visit the White House if the U.S. wins the World Cup.”I stand by the comments that I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive,” Rapinoe said Thursday. “My mom will be very upset about that. But I think, obviously, answering with a lot of passion considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have and using it for good and for leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place, I don’t think that I would want to go.”And I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having that coopted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t fight for same things that we fight for.”Rapinoe expressed similar sentiments about any potential White House visit earlier this year, as did teammate Alex Morgan.After Rapinoe’s comments about a White House visit appeared Tuesday, Trump again criticized her on Twitter and also invited the U.S. team to the White House after the World Cup.The week began with Trump criticizing Rapinoe in an interview with The Hill, saying he disagrees with her not singing or putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem. Rapinoe knelt during the anthem before two U.S. games in 2016 to express solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick‘s protests to raise awareness of racial injustice and police brutality.In both cases in 2016 — for games in Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta — Rapinoe was a substitute on the sideline when the national anthem was played. U.S. Soccer subsequently instituted a policy requiring all players to stand during the anthem.Ellis named Rapinoe one of three captains before World Cup qualifying in 2018, along with Morgan and Carli Lloyd.While only a quarterfinal, Friday’s game is between teams undefeated and untied thus far in the tournament and which entered the World Cup as essentially co-favorites among oddsmakers. Even Rapinoe said during the team’s training camp in England that she considered France the favorite to win the title. The Americans are 3-3-2 against the French in the last eight games in the series.The U.S. has never failed to reach the semifinals of a World Cup.”For me, [games like] these are why you play all these friendlies a thousand times and are training on your own for hours and hours and grind through the rest of it,” Rapinoe said. “I think it’s going to be a great stage for both teams who have had a lot of pressure and a lot of eyes on them to just go out and perform and enjoy themselves.”

U.S. didn’t dazzle vs. Panama, but squad depth bodes well for deep Gold Cup run

11:07 AM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In the end, Gregg Berhalter’s strategy worked, and while it wasn’t much fun to watch, the payoff could come later in this Gold Cup for the U.S. men’s national team.Heading into the group stage finale against Panama, both teams had already secured their spots in the quarterfinal. The main questions centered on the order of finish and who each team would face next, but there were deeper issues, as well. The games in the knockout stage take place at an accelerated pace — just two full days separate the quarterfinals from the semifinals — and there is the matter of getting rest for the presumed starting lineup. That led to questions of squad rotation: How much, and for whom? Panama manager Julio Dely Valdes opted to name nine new starters, but Berhalter went even wilder, swapping out all 11 players that started against Trinidad & Tobago and replacing them with their nominal reserves. It seemed a bit of a gamble from Berhalter given how elusive consistency has been for the U.S., but he didn’t see it that way.”The decision to start 11 new players was an easy one, to be honest,” he said. “We believe in the group. We believe in keeping the group together. We believe that everyone can contribute to this team, for the team’s success, and we wanted to show that.”The guys have been training really well, and they deserved this opportunity.”The game itself was hard on the eyes, even if it did end with a 1-0 U.S. victory. While the home side controlled the game’s tempo for long periods, the attack sputtered, creating little in the way of chances. Some of this can be chalked up to some rust, while Panama seemed content to sit back and absorb pressure as well. The service from the flanks wasn’t good enough, either, and was easily cu out by the Canaleros’ defense.”I think we gave too many bouncing balls. We lost the balls in tough areas; our touches were a bit sloppy,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “Just a bit rusty overall. When you change the lineup, that can happen.”If a goal was going to come, it was either going to arrive via a mistake or a gritty play. As it turned out, it was a bit of both. Djordje Mihailovic swung in a corner that was intended for Roldan, but seeing his teammates marked, he kept the play alive and headed the goal back across goal. When a pair of Panamanian defenders didn’t deal with the danger, Jozy Altidore went for thebicycle kick and deposited the ball in the net from close range.The celebration that followed saw Roldan go for the bear hug on Altidore, only to realize the bear was too big.”It’s hard to grab that man. He’s a big boy, and he’s very powerful,” said Roldan about Altidore. “It’s very hard to get on his front side.”The sight of Altidore getting on the scoresheet was the most welcome development of the night. The Toronto FC mainstay remains the best forward in the U.S. pool, and his hold-up play and passing will come in handy as the games get tougher. But he entered the training camp for the Gold Cup carrying the remnants of a hamstring injury, and Berhalter has opted to bring him along slowly. While Altidore played 45 minutes in the 3-0 friendly defeat to Venezuela, he had logged just 16 minutes in the Gold Cup prior to Wednesday night.The extent to which that has left Altidore frustrated is unknown. He’s done little to no media since arriving in the U.S. camp and declined to speak with reporters after this match. But his primal scream of a goal celebration hinted at some pent-up energy, and he was determined to see out as much of this encounter as he could.Berhalter said, “I talked to Jozy at halftime, and I asked him, ‘How much more do you have in you?’ He said, ‘I want to stay on the field.’ When you hear that from a player, it makes you feel great. And then when that player goes out and scores the winning goal, it makes you feel even better, because him and all the players on the field today, they wanted to win. They wanted to win for the team.”Given the fact that he lasted 83 minutes, it would seem that Altidore is ready to lead the line in the knockout rounds. As for the rest of the lineup, center-backs Miazga and Omar Gonzalez acquitted themselves well, and right-back Reggie Cannon was able to get forward and contribute to the attack. Yet it seems likely that besides Altidore, no one did enough to burrow their way into the starting lineup for Sunday’s quarterfinal against Curacao. The minutes they chewed up still have value, however, in that they allowed the usual starters to get rest, an important consideration as the games get tougher.With the quarterfinals now set to begin, the U.S. finds itself in a good, albeit imperfect, place. The U.S. knows it needs to be better, but given the alarm bells ringing at the beginning of the month following two warm-up defeats, the sight of a clean sweep in the group stage with an 11-goal margin in terms of goal differential is one the U.S. will take.What matters now is performing when the Gold Cup stakes are highest. The prize is three wins away.

RECAP | FIFTH CONSECUTIVE WIN PUTS INDY ELEVEN ATOP USL CHAMPIONSHIP’S EASTERN CONFERENCE

By IndyEleven.com, 06/26/19, 11:15PM EDT Dominant Performance Pushes Unbeaten Streak to Nine Games, Home Unbeaten Run to 16 Games

#INDvBHM Stats via USLChampionship.com Match Center

Each of the last three home wins for Indy Eleven have been nail-biters, but tonight the Boys in Blue flipped the script, spreading goals throughout a convincing 3-0 victory over Birmingham Legion FC at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The victory improved the club’s record-winning streak to five games and lifted Indy Eleven (10W-2L-3D, 33 pts.) into a tie for first place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference alongside the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The result also extended the Eleven’s undefeated streak to nine games (6W-0L-3D) and its home unbeaten streak at Lucas Oil Stadium dating back to last July to 16 games (10W-0L-6D).Goals early and late by Tyler Pasher and Thomas Enevoldsen, respectively, bookended a Legion FC own goal. Pasher’s game-winning goal was his fourth game-clincher in Indy’s last seven contests and his team-leading sixth tally of the season. Goalkeeper Jordan Farr made four saves en route to his second consecutive clean sheet. Tonight’s shutout for Indy Eleven was the tenth in its first 15 games this season, and the seventh in eight home contests in 2019.“I thought tonight’s performance was solid,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “We scored a really good first goal early. It was nice. We haven’t really done that at all at home. Then we scored a good goal on a set play, which is something we like to see because it’s something we work on a lot. I was pleased with Thomas [Enevoldsen] getting a goal at the end. It was obvious he really wanted one. He and Alioune [Diakhate] linked up well and he got his reward. It was a good performance and as we head towards the midway point in the season, we’re doing well.”The Boys Blue opened the scoring early when, in the seventh minute, Pasher played a textbook one-two with defender Lucas Farias from the left corner of the 18-yard box. After Pasher retrieved Farias’ return ball, the Canadian took one touch to the Birmingham six-yard box and slotted low and inside the far post. The game’s opening goal continued the hot streak for Pasher, who has scored all of his six goals in the Eleven’s last seven outings.“We’ve been playing well most of the season. The big thing is just taking our chances and being more clinical, which we were today,” Rennie said. “Everyone on the team are really getting to know each other and work really hard for each other. There is a good chemistry amongst the group and a good culture around the team.Midfielder Macauley King nearly doubled the lead 14 minutes later, with Pasher nearly creating the goal. After leaving a Birmingham defender behind him, the Canadian played a diagonal pass that found King at the top of the Birmingham box. King would unleash a driven effort that flew just inches over the bar, but surely worried Birmingham ‘keeper Matt VanOekel.Birmingham had an excellent chance to draw level at the half hour mark after a cross played to the back post found an unmarked Eddie Opoku. Much to Farr’s relief, the Birmingham forward failed to put the would be tap-in on frame, sending the shot into the right side-netting.Birmingham would live to regret the miss thirteen minutes later, as Indy Eleven would double the lead through an own goal via Legion FC defender Mathieu Laurent. Indy defender Ayoze was tasked with playing in a free kick from 35 yards out, and the Spaniard’s in-swinger would glance off the head of two Birmingham players before ricocheting off the chest of Laurent and into the back of the net, despite a touch from Van Oekel.The second half began on a less active note, as the first clear chance of the second 45 minutes manifested through a Birmingham cross into the Indy Eleven box in the 57th minute. The cross would find Legion FC’s leading goal scorer, forward Chandler Hoffman, but he was unable to redirect the effort on frame, sending his header wide right.Farr would be forced into another goal-saving stop at the hour mark – but not from the opposition. Birmingham’s Daniel Johnson played a lofted pass into the box from the right side of the 18-yard box attempting to find Hoffman. Indy defender Mitchell Osmond went to clear the effort acrobatically, but unintentionally redirected the effort towards goal and, luckily, right at an alert Farr. Ten minutes later, Farr would be tested again by the foot of Hoffman. After receiving a pass at the top of the Indy 18, Hoffman took a decisive touch towards the face of goal and drove in a low shot that Farr extended on the ground to gather as the score line remained 2-0.The game’s last clear cut chance wouldn’t surface until the 91st minute, when Enevoldsen would put some iffy decisions by the center referee in the late stages behind him by putting the nail in Legion FC’s coffin. Forward Alioune Diakhate – making his first start for the Boys in Blue on the evening – would place a shot on frame from inside the box that would be saved by Van Oekel, but the rebound would find the Danish forward creeping at the back post as he killed off the game.”We’ve had very close wins; 2-1 vs Loudoun and won by one the other night [against Atlanta United FC 2]. It’s been like that for a while now, so it’s good to get a comfortable win,” said Enevoldsen. “The early goal probably helped us a lot, it gave us the confidence to keep going and I think it was by far our best home performance this season.  We were good on the ball, we created good chances and it’s good to say we [have won] five games in a row – that’s a very good streak.”Indy Eleven’s busy week concludes this Saturday, June 29, with the club’s first “Blue Out” at Lucas Oil Stadium, presented by Blue Indy, against two-time defending USL Championship title holder Louisville City FC. Fans are encouraged to support the “Boys in Blue” by donning blue for the latest edition of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest, which is slated for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff. Tickets remain available for as little as $15 and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

Depth is a great thing to have. It really is. Depth gives peace of mind to the head coach, to the technical and training staff, and to the fans. For the past 198 minutes of USL Championship play, Indy goalkeeper Jordan Farr has been the one providing peace of mind. Farr has started the last two matches against Loudoun United FC and Atlanta United 2 and played the remaining 18 minutes at Memphis 901 FC that saw starting goalkeeper Evan Newton subbed off.Since coming on in the 72nd minute against Memphis, Farr has racked up four saves, three clearances (courtesy of his courageousness as a ‘keeper), a clean sheet and allowed one goal (which in Farr’s defense, was about as good a goal as you can allow). The 24-year-old’s performance against Atlanta United 2 solidified Farr’s class, as he recorded three massive saves and his first USL Championship clean sheet.With Newton upgraded to questionable for last Saturday’s win, Farr’s impressive relief stint may be coming to an end as early as this week. No matter who goes between the posts Wednesday against Birmingham Legion FC and Saturday in the rivalry showdown with Louisville City FC, the Corban University grad (shoutout to Salem, Oregon) knows this – the Boys in Blue, from front to back, will be ready for the challenge.“We’re excited to get nine points quickly,” Farr said. “We’re not going for ties. We’re going for wins.”

USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvBHM
Indy Eleven  3 : 0  Birmingham Legion FC
Wednesday, June 22, 2019 – 7:00 p.m. ET

Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.

Attendance: 9,248

Indy Eleven (10W-2L-3D, 33 pts., T-1st in Eastern Conference)  Birmingham Legion FC (3W-9L-4D, 13 pts., T-12th in Eastern Conference)

Scoring Summary:

IND – Tyler Pasher (Lucas Farias) 7’

IND – Mathieu Laurent (own goal) 44’

IND – Thomas Enevoldsen (unassisted) 91’

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6/21/19 US Men vs Trinidad & Tobago Sat 7 pm FS1, US Ladies vs Spain Monday 12 noon Fox, Indy 11 home Sat 7 pm, Copa & Gold Cup this Weekend & Next Week

WWC

I have really enjoyed watching this Women’s World Cup so far – there has been some great play and some close games even with so many new teams in the World Cup.  Now we are down to the Sweet 16 so it gets real. Nice wins for the US in games 2 and 3 – I am still thinking Sweden played it smarter resting 6 starters – thusly (allowing the US win) and an easier road to the Finals in Lyon.  The US for winning the revenge game vs a depleted Sweden team 2-0 (really 1 – since Lloyd was offsides on that play – and DID AFFECT THE PLAY.)  It should have been 1-0.  The truth is I thought Sweden exposed the US back starting back line – as converted forward /Left Back Crystal Dunn was EXPOSED time and time again.  The centerbacks didn’t cover her well enough a number of times – and anyone who doesn’t think France will slice and dice that back line and Actually put difficult shots on our untested Goalkeeper have not been watching this tourney.  The truth is the US have to play the toughest road to the finals.   The US faces Spain on Monday at 12 noon on Fox in a game they should definitely win with or without Alex Morgan who was hurt in the first half of the Sweden game.  Then it will be FRANCE in PARIS in the Round of 8.  If we face France in the Finals – I think the nerves get to France and we win going away.  But in the Quarter Finals on Friday at  9 or 12 pm on Fox with all of France – and hell after the 13-0 game – the entire world rooting against the US – it will be a HUGE test for the US.  I really think Horan did a great job in the #6 slot the last 2 games for Ertz – which sets up Ertz to move back to Center Back to solidify the back line with both speed and BITE!  Will be interesting to see if Morgan is healthy enough to start – if not Lloyd can get us to France – but we will need our best team vs France to have a chance.  I hope I am wrong – but I don’t feel good about that France match-up.  Come on US – prove me wrong on this one!!

Some surprises this world cup have been how good Italy has looked – and just how exciting some of the last group games were with Cameron scoring in extra time to make the sweet 16.  Oh and Argentina knocking poor Scotland out with the 3-3 tie – man Scotland got ripped off having the PK save overruled. But man how can you give up 3 goals in 15 minutes in a game you must win to advance?  How?  Oh and VAR Are you kidding me – VAR and the level of Reffing in this Women’s World Cup has been an absolute farce.  Listen I am ok with VAR – but you still have to make the right call VAR – and more times than not they have missed it.  Questionable penalty calls, offside decisions, and ridiculous penalties have made VAR a farce at this World Cup – unlike it was in the men’s game for World Cup, Champions League, or league games. Not sure why they are screwing it up – but no one would vote for the women’s version of VAR – especially on GK’s leaving the line early – my goodness – nice to hear the Men’s game say they will not use VAR on PKs.  The whole thing has been a joke – and it has really affected games – hell the US was gifted 2 goals and France was gifted both of their winning goals in the last 2 games to win the group.

Congrats on the solid fan #s as Fox and Fox Sports 1 – who is doing a great job delivering these games with proper pregame and post game coverage, had the 2nd rated soccer game in the US this year behind the Men’s World Cup Finals last year.  Unfortunately the US has had mostly weekday afternoon games – FIFA could mess up an Ice Cream Sunday.  World Cup tonight every night at 10 pm or 10:30 has been solid and they replay the day’s games every night on FS1, FS2 and Fox Soccer – in case you miss the games. is smart.  Great to not have to pay a fee to watch soccer in America (ESPN+ or TNT)!  Oh and the Commercials have been pretty good too! Hulu ,  Germany’s AdUSA Fox David vs GoliathNike’s,  Coca-Cola

Gold Cup Underway – US to Play Trinadad and Tobago Sat 7 pm. 

The busy slate of soccer continues this weekend as both the Gold Cup and Copa America continue.  USA vs Trinadad and Tobago for the 1st time after beating the US to knock us out of the World Cup will take place on Saturday night at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.  Don’t ask me why this game is not on Fox?  Come on Guys!!  Anyway – after a solid 4-0 win vs Guyana on Thursday night – I expect the US to handle T&T with a 2-0 maybe 3-1 win in Cleveland.  Hopefully Weston McKinney is healthy enough to go – at least the first half – and hopefully Pulisic will come alive in this game.  I thought the US – especially new US winger Boyd looked really good Thursday night.  Even Michael Bradley unlocked a lot of good passes from the #6 spot – just not sure he has the speed to hold down the middle by himself vs better teams.  The US will finish up group play Wed at 9 pm vs Panama on FS1.  All games the US men should win in root to winning the group.

Indy 11 host Atlanta United 2 Sat 7 pm at the LUKE

Don’t look now but our Indy 11 are making a run now in the Eastern Division –heading into a big run of home games tomorrow night, Wednesday night at 7 pm vs Birmingham and next Sat Night vs Louisville City at 7 pm.

CFC_GK_Cash

Carmel FC Head GK Coach – Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr -is looking for a couple of 8th grade or high school aged kids to fill out a training group – email him at FARRJordn12@gmail.com

Women’s World Cup  

US has toughest Gauntlet to the Finals Si – Grant Wahl

Will the Alex Morgan injury overshadow a perfect group stage for the United States?

U.S. gets revenge against Sweden to win Group F

Women’s World Cup predictions: Who will win the title in France?

Best Goals of the Group Stages S&S

US fans take over Paris

No cards for off-line WWC keepers on shootouts

Chile GK Endler Was Player of Game vs USA

USWNT agrees to mediation over pay after WCup

The 1999 U.S. women’s national team: Instant icons, lasting legends

USWNT family members make emotional visit to Omaha Beach

Scotland out after dramatic Argentina draw

White scores brace as England top Group D

Netherlands down Canada to win Group E

Last-gasp goal sees Cameroon into round of 16

France secure Women’s World Cup win over Nigeria after VAR saves the day

VAR helps France to group-topping win over Nigeria

Kerr nets four in Australia’s win over Jamaica

Marta sets World Cup goal record in Brazil win

What it’s like to play against (and with) Brazil’s Marta

Germany thrash South Africa to win Group B

Spain, China book last 16 spots in scoreless draw

USA Men

Bradley Talks Grudge Match vs T&T Sat Night

US Wins but Questions Remain –MLS.com

Boyd double guides U.S. to Gold Cup-opening win

Boyd emerges with 8/10 showing as U.S. stars struggle to victory – Jason Davis ESPNFC

Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer

Jose Mourino as USMNT Coach ?  – Yahoo Sports

Freddy Adu exclusive: ‘I’m not ready to give it up’

Fifa Releases Details on Yedlin Youth Case

Gold Cup  

Guardado saves Mexico in win over Canada to keep up Martino’s 100% record

Orgill hits brace in Jamaica’s win over Honduras

Jimenez stellar but Antuna the perfect 10 in Mexico rout

Canada rout Martinique in Gold Cup opener match

Costa Rica hits four past Nicaragua

COPA America

Messi ensures Argentina live to fight another day

Venezuela’s draw with Brazil was no fluke – it’s proof of their U20 plan

Colombia in Copa quarters with win over Qatar

Lionel Messi is throwing Argentina off balance

Brazil overcome early jitters to win Copa opener

VAR cancels out Brazil goals in Venezuela draw

 

Transfer Rumors

– Pogba wants out. How should Man United respond?
– Transfer hot list: Five players every club wants
– Ogden: Liverpool De Ligt’s best option; expect him to join PSG

– United won’t consider Pogba sale

– PSG nearing €75m De Ligt deal

– United to improve De Gea offer

– Oblak wants Atleti exit, favours Utd

– Rabiot could stay at PSG

PSG’s interest in Donnarumma leaves De Gea with one fewer landing place

 

 

GAMES ON TV

USA Women’s World Cup June 7-July 7

  • Thurs, June 20: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Sweden
  • Sun, July 7 3 pm ET, Fox Women’s World Cup Finals from France

Sat, June 22

11:30 am Fox Sports 1            WWC Germany vs   Round of 16

3 pm Fox                                                 WWC Norway vs     Round of 16

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          Peru vs Brazil

5:30 pm FS1                            Guyana vs Panama Gold Cup

  • 7 pm ESPN+, Myindty Indy 11 vs Atlanta United 2

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Cincy vs LA Galaxy

8 pm FS1                     USA Men vs Trinadad & Tobago – Gold Cup

Sun, June 23

11:30 am Fox Sports 1            WWC     vs   Round of 16

3 pm Fox                                                 WWC France vs     Round of 16

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          Colombia vs Paraguay

3 pm beIN Sport                     Mallorca vs Deportivo – La Liga Promotion Playoff

5:30 pm ESPN+                       Columbus vs Sporting KC

6 pm FS2                                 Canada vs Cuba Gold Cup

8:30 pm FS1                            Mexico vs Martinique Gold Cup

Mon, June 24

12 Fox                          WWC  Spain vs USA Round of 16

3 pm Fox Sports1                    WWC   vs     Round of 16

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          Chile vs Uruguay COPA

9 pm FS1                                                 Haiti vs Costa Rica Gold Cup

Tues, June 25

12 Fox Sports 1                       WWC  vs   Round of 16

3 pm Fox Sports1                    WWC   vs     Round of 16

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          Chile vs Uruguay COPA

8 pm FS1                                                 Jamaica vs Curacao Gold Cup

10:30 pm FS1                          Honduras vs El Salvador Gold Cup

Wed, June 26

  • 7 pm ESPN+, Myindty Indy 11 vs Birmingham Legion

9 pm FS1                     USA Men vs Panama- Gold Cup

thur, June 27

3 pm Fox                                                 WWC  vs   QF

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA QF1

Fri, June 28

3 pm Fox                                                 WWC  vs   QF

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA QF

8 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA QF3

Sat, June 29

9 am Fox Sport 1                    WWC  vs   QF

12:30 pm Fox                          WWC  vs   QF

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA QF

4 pm ESPN                              Minn United vs Cincy

  • 7 pm ESPN+, Myindty Indy 11 vs Louisville City

7 pm FS1                                 Gold Cup  QF

10 pm FS1                               Gold Cup  QF

Sun, June 30

2:30 pm ESPN2                       Euro U21 Final

5:30 pm FS1                            Gold Cup  QF

8:30 pm FS1                            Gold Cup  QF

Tues, July 2

3 pm Fox                                                 WWC  vs   Semi-final

8 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA Semi

10:30 pm FS1                          Gold Cup  Semi

Wed, July 3

3 pm Fox Sport 1                    WWC  vs   Semi-final

8 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA Semi

9:30 pm FS1                            Gold Cup  Semi

Sat, July 6

11 am Fox                               WWC  3rd Place Game

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA 3rd Place Game

Sun, July 7

11 am Fox                               WWC  FINALS

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          COPA FINALS

9 pm FS1                                 Gold Cup FINALS

Gold Cup TV Schedule June 15– July 7

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

International Champions Cup Schedule July 16-Aug 18

 

Women’s World Cup predictions: Who will win the title in France?

10:03 PM ET

Thirty-six games are in the books. Only 16 teams remain in the Women’s World Cup. Which teams are the favorites to reach Lyon for the final three matches in France? And which players have performed most impressive in goal and on the field? ESPN FC’s Tom Hamilton and Julien Laurens, ESPN Brasil’s Natalie Gedra and ESPN’s Graham Hays, Julie Foudy and Alyssa Roenigk make their picks for how the rest of the World Cup might play out.

Which teams will reach the semifinals in Lyon?

Foudy: England, Germany, Netherlands, United States

Gedra: England, Germany, Netherlands, United States

Hamilton: England, Germany, Netherlands, United States

Hays: Australia, France, Germany, Netherlands

Laurens: England, Germany, Netherlands, United States

Roenigk: Australia, Germany, Netherlands, United States

Which teams will reach the final?

The U.S. women were a near unanimous pick to win the World Cup, and Alex Morgan is a favorite to win the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. Thomas SAMSON / AFP)THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Foudy: Germany vs. United States

Gedra: Netherlands vs. United States

Hamilton: Germany vs. United States

Hays: France vs. Netherlands

Laurens: Germany vs. United States

Roenigk: Germany vs. United States

Which team is your Cup winner?

Foudy: United States

Gedra: United States

Hamilton: United States

Hays: France

Laurens: United States

Roenigk: United States

Which goalkeeper will win the Golden Glove?

Goalkeeper Almuth Schult posted clean sheets in each of Germany’s group stage games. Up next? Nigeria on Saturday in the Round of 16. TF-Images/Getty Images

Foudy: Christiane Endler, Chile

Gedra: Sarah Bouhaddi, France

Hamilton: Almuth Schult, Germany

Hays: Almuth Schult, Germany

Laurens: Almuth Schult, Germany

Roenigk: Christiane Endler, Chile

Which player will win the Golden Ball?

Foudy: Alex Morgan, United States

Gedra: Alex Morgan, United States

Hamilton: Sara Dabritz, Germany

Hays: Wendie Renard, France

Laurens: Alex Morgan, United States

Roenigk: Alex Morgan, United States

USA Refuses to Avoid Harder Women’s World Cup Route–and Is Dealt a Knockout Gauntlet

By GRANT WAHL June 20, 2019

LE HAVRE, France — The U.S. women’s national team just got through its easiest group stage ever at a Women’s World Cup–and now begins what on paper looks like the Americans’ hardest knockout stage ever.The U.S. beat its old nemesis Sweden 2-0 in their Group F finale on Thursday and set up a round-of-16 clash against Spain, thanks to a third-minute set-piece goal by Lindsey Horan and a 50th-minute Swedish own goal that came after a shot by Tobin Heath. But after beating overmatched Thailand and Chile by a combined 16-0 in its first two games, the U.S. didn’t even get a full-strength Sweden team to play.Swedish coach Peter Gerhardsson decided to make seven changes and even said afterward that “we didn’t think in advance that it was important to end up first or second” in the group—a nod, most likely, to the fact that the first-place team in the group would end up on the harder side of the bracket and be on a course to face host and favorite France in the quarterfinals.“I think after the game that might be a fair comment,” cracked U.S. coach Jill Ellis when she heard about it.The U.S. players, by contrast, said not going 100% to win just is “not even in our DNA,” as winger Megan Rapinoe put it. In the end, it only took three minutes for the Americans to show they wouldn’t be doing any sandbagging.“We’re winners, and we want to win,” said left back Crystal Dunn. “For anyone to think we were going to throw this game to not play France in France in Paris is crazy. But of course they have to go through to that round, and we obviously have to go through to that round.”Even with the seven changes, Sweden still provided significantly more resistance than the U.S.’s first two opponents, which gave the American defense more opportunities to get some game action. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher had to make two saves, and while she was never really troubled, it was good to knock some rust off.Meanwhile, when Sweden did manage to get forward, it appeared to target Dunn, especially in the first half. Dunn is not a natural fullback, but Ellis has put her in that spot to get her on the field in a position that is extremely attack-minded in the U.S.’s 4-3-3. She still has to defend on occasion, though, and she won a few one-on-one battles on Thursday that had the American Outlaws chanting her name in the stands.“I think the way we were set up is we were caught a little bit in transition, and the opening was just down my side,” Dunn said. “But at the end of the day, as an outside back do I love this position all the time? Absolutely not. I’m yelling at my midfielders all the time to disallow that person to run in acres of space like that. But at the end of the day, it’s my job to limit opportunities, and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”It’s not hard to imagine, say, France’s Delphine Cascarino challenging Dunn in a high-speed transition game in a potential quarterfinal against France. By that time, of course, Ellis will hope to have her full compliment of starters available. Defensive midfielder Julie Ertz was a surprise precautionary scratch from the lineup after picking up a hip contusion against Chile. Ertz is probably the U.S.’s most indispensable player, but Horan filled in without much dropoff against a less-than-full-strength Sweden. What’s more, Sam Mewis got another start in the midfield as a result and played well, including unspooling some penetrating diagonal passes.Ellis also took off forward Alex Morgan after 45 minutes for what Ellis called “a knock” Morgan suffered in the first half. Ertz said she expects to be ready for the Spain game, while Ellis said Morgan’s removal was merely precautionary.The win against Sweden put some closure on the 2016 Olympics loss to the Swedes, and it also sets up a dramatic upgrade in challenges moving forward for the Americans. After beating Thailand (FIFA ranking: 34), Chile (39) and Sweden (9), the top-ranked U.S. could now potentially face Spain (13), France (4), England (3) and Germany (2) in their next four knockout-round games.The Spaniards put up a fight when the U.S. beat them 1-0 in a friendly in January, and Sauerbrunn said she learned a lot about Spain in that game.“Very good passing team, very good at finding different seams, breaking lines,” she said. “They played a little bit with a false nine, and so they weren’t really making runs in behind, but they were kind of playing in front and trying to slip people through. So that’s something that our back line will have to be vigilant about, and I’m sure we’ll watch plenty of film.”The U.S. defense can feel good for now that it went through an entire Women’s World Cup group stage without conceding a goal for the first time ever. But the Americans are also well aware that the degree of difficulty has been low so far, and it’s about to go sky high very soon.

U.S. gets revenge against Sweden to win Group F

Jun 20, 2019ESPN

Goals either side of half-time saw the United States beat Sweden 2-0 to win Group F at the Women’s World Cup on Thursday night in Le Havre, setting up a round-of-16 match with Spain.After making seven lineup changes for the match against Chile, coach Jill Ellis went back to the front three she used in the opener: Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath. Julie Ertz was not in the lineup for the U.S. as a precautionary measure because of a hip contusion after she started and scored in the 3-0 win against Chile.

– FIFA Women’s World Cup: All you need to know

– Full Women’s World Cup fixtures schedule

The U.S., looking for a bit of revenge after losing to Sweden in the 2016 Olympics, got off to a perfect start when Lindsey Horan poked home from close range in the third minute after Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick skipped past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.Despite the early goal and plenty of pressure from the U.S., Sweden settled into the game and looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Sofia Jakobsson in particular causing the Americans’ back-line problems.The U.S., unbeaten when leading at half-time in World Cup play, brought on Carli Lloyd in place of Alex Morgan at the start of the second half. Morgan was involved in a couple of collisions in the first half and at one point held her right knee.”Alex took a knock in the first half and it was just, ‘Let’s be smart about this.’ Similar vein to Julie. It is a zero risk game in terms of having players available for the next round,” Ellis said.Tobin Heath had the ball in the net minutes after the restart, beating her defender at the near post and benefitting from a slight deflection from Joanna Andersson that beat Lindahl. The play was reviewed by the referee on the pitchside monitor as Lloyd appeared to be offside in the buildup, but the goal was allowed and ruled an own goal by Andersson as the U.S. took a 2-0 win.”It’s a good performance and we wanted to continue to build momentum,” Ellis told a news conference after the match. “We have things to work on to make sure we’re sharper next game, and the players know that. It was a rival game and I thought the players showed a great mentality.”The U.S. did not concede a goal in the group phase and extended its team record of 13 games without a loss in the Women’s World Cup dating back to a 2011 group stage defeat to Sweden.”It’s huge and a big part of what we’re trying to do both offensively and defensively. We talk about the idea of 360-degree defending where everyone is defending,” said Heath.The goal was the 18th for the U.S. in group play, breaking the Women’s World Cup mark set by Norway in 1995.The U.S. plays Spain, who finished second in Group B, on June 24 in the knockout round, while Sweden will play Canada on the same day.

USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 2019 Gold Cup: What to watch for

Time to start exorcising some demons.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Jun 21, 2019, 8:00am PDT

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The United States Men’s National Team enter their second matchday at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and they face a familiar opponent in Trinidad and Tobago. We don’t need to discuss all the storylines behind this match. We know what happened, and some of us still have nightmares from being in the stands the last time these two teams played each other. Still, the USMNT will want to put that night behind them and exorcise at least some of the demons by taking care of a Soca Warriors side that has not performed well lately. A win will set themselves up to possibly qualify for the knockout stage should Panama beat Guyana. Can the USMNT do what it takes to defeat Trinidad and Tobago and not leave a knockout stage berth to the last matchday?

Recent Form

USA

W (4-0) – Guyana – Gold Cup Group D

L (0-3) – Venezuela – Friendly

L (0-1) – Jamaica – Friendly

D (1-1) – Chile – Friendly

W (1-0) – Ecuador – Friendly

Trinidad and Tobago

L (0-2) – Panama – Gold Cup Group D

D (0-0) – Japan – Friendly

L (0-1) – Wales – Friendly

L (0-1) – Iran – Friendly

L (0-1) – Thailand – Friendly

What To Watch For

Gregg Berhalter needs to account for variable change. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has a formation and a system, and for better or worse, we’ve seen him stick to that system so far in his short tenure. Sometimes, that system seems too scripted, taking off players that could make a difference down the stretch. If a player is playing well, Berhalter needs to give that player the confidence that he believes in his ability to finish the match. We should also be looking for guys who are tired or not performing well or reading the changes in the match tactically and making the adjustments necessary to win the game. We didn’t do that last time we played Trinidad and Tobago, and Berhalter needs to make sure he does that tomorrow when the situation arises.

We need leaders. There are a lot of veterans on this team and some young players who fans would call part of that future core of the team. The team needs a leader to emerge. Is it Christian Pulisic? Is it an older veteran like Michael Bradley? Is it someone else? They don’t need to have the captain’s armband, but at times against Guyana, the leadership wasn’t visibly present, which led to some chaotic moments. For this team to get back to its core and defend its title, it needs to have leadership visible at all times, from the defense up to the attack. Who’s going to assert themselves tomorrow?

Will Jozy be in the lineup over Gyasi Zardes? Jozy Altidore, who has the most goals of anyone on the roster and the 3rd-most in USMNT history, is on the bench in favor of Gyasi Zardes, who scored a goal by getting the ball deflected off his face against Guyana. Say what you will about Altidore and what his role in the disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying failure may have been in your eyes, but most would think that he should be in a lineup that is desperate for goal scorers over Zardes. We’ll see if Berhalter elects to finally see what Jozy can do in his offense or if he continues to rely on Zardes in his system.

Lineup Prediction

With this match being the 2nd of the group stage and with the most dangerous opponent, Panama, looming on the 26th, there is a chance that Gregg Berhalter rotates his players to give some of them opportunities against Trinidad and Tobago. However, given the recent history of these two teams when they play, the more likely prediction is that Berhalter only makes a couple changes from his lineup against Guyana.

Predicted Lineup: USMNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago

In goal, Zack Steffen will still be the guy, only having to stop a couple shots against Guyana. The changes we will likely see will be on the back line, with Nick Lima and Aaron Long remaining in the starting lineup. Matt Miazga could be the option at centerback along with Long, while Daniel Lovitz could replace Tim Ream at left back.In the middle, Michael Bradley once again gets the start and the captain’s armband. Christian Pulisic will occupy the right wing, while Weston McKennie, who was substituted off against Guyana after picking up a knock, will likely reappear on the left wing. It wasn’t deemed serious, and he’ll want to get back out there.Up front, Tyler Boyd, who had a dream brace Tuesday night, and Paul Arriola, who had a goal as well, will man the wings, while Gyasi Zardes will once again get the call at center forward. However, expect Jozy Altidore to appear as well as a substitute.

Match Prediction

This is a match that fans have circled on their calendar ever since the Gold Cup groups were announced. The team will be ready to, and they will not take the Soca Warriors lightly. Expect this game to be a match that doesn’t ease many concerns about whether the USMNT can compete against Mexico or Costa Rica, but it will be a 2-0 victory for the United States.

Bogert: US national team win Gold Cup opener, but questions remain

June 19, 20194:55PM EDTTom BogertContributor

Playing against a country rated 177th (of 211) in the FIFA world rankings was never going to serve as the magic elixir to cure all symptoms and obviate all fears for the US men’s national team, especially the ones diagnosed following a pair of entirely disappointing friendly defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela.It wasn’t perfect, and head coach Gregg Berhalter may be disappointed his side didn’t find the back of the net more times. But it sure felt good to see the USMNT plunder four goals against Guyana in their victorious Gold Cup Group D opening match. Posting a shutout wasn’t bad, either. But Berhalter’s reign won’t be judged on Gold Cup group-stage games against minnows. It was the bare minimum. Anything short of a comprehensive victory would have triggered a sky-is-falling meltdown, particularly after how a shorthanded Mexico demolished Cuba 7-0 a few days prior. All that said, some data can still be analyzed from the United States’ first competitive match in 20 months:

It’s time for Pulisic to take over this squad

…And he seemed to embrace that on Tuesday night. He’s undisputedly the best player on the squad at the moment, something he wasn’t in his time at Borussia Dortmund, nor in his first run with the national team. As such, he carries more expectation and responsibility, both to perform consistently and also be a leader. From the opening whistle, Pulisic was demonstrative in his movements, confident in his touches and didn’t drift out of the game until his substitution after 60 minutes. For young wingers – a position he played for Dortmund and is expected to play with Chelsea – that last part can be tricky. The U.S. attack won’t float on if Pulisic goes missing.What will he look like against Panama, then Trinidad and Tobago in group play. What about Mexico, should the two regional powerhouses meet in the final? How will he deal with the full-on Concacaf star treatment from opponents should they deem he’s worthy to be kicked at every chance?

Still, the attack didn’t quite hum as hoped

…Especially against an inferior opponent. It’s a concerning trend of late. Would Panama or T&T capitalize on a number of loose passes in their own half? Breaking lines from the defensive third to midfield, then midfield to the attacking third, weren’t always smooth, the former of which specifically when Guyana focused on man-marking Michael Bradley. Things started to break down when he wasn’t quarterbacking possession. That’s why it was so important that Pulisic demanded the ball, seeking not just the creative burden but helping out as much as he could in building possession. Jozy Altidore‘s underrated hold-up play should help on this front whenever he makes his tournament debut.

Starting places on the wing are up for grabs

…And Tyler Boyd went ahead and took one. Paul Arriola did, too. Arriola did what Arriola does: High work-rate, unselfish, solid (if unspectacular) for much of the game, and even opened the scoring.Boyd’s ceiling is higher, in part because he is more unknown, but he showed real upside with regularity against Guyana. Daring forward passes, direct runs and a pair of goals is an injection of creativity Berhalter’s side have been lacking on the wing as long as Pulisic has featured through the center.Keeping in mind the caveat above regarding Guyana’s standing in the FIFA rankings, it’s still a strong Gold Cup debut for the 24-year-old.

Left back is also up for grabs

…While Tim Ream has it now, he’s not the long-term solution. His once-a-game mistake manifested itself Tuesday night in a nutmeg that set Twitter ablaze, which, considering recent cases of fatal back passes, isn’t too bad.

Berhalter unfurled another little tactical wrinkle

…Which showed he isn’t married to one ideal, one philosophy. More on that abstract thought in a second; first the literal tweak: Instead of the right back (Nick Lima) joining central midfield in possession as the left back (Ream) shifted to form a back three, it was the right winger (Boyd). So, with the ball, Arriola provided the width down the left flank, Lima on the right with Boyd drifting infield.

One way to view it, with a positive outlook, is that Berhalter won’t be stubborn. Being flexible, and bending the tactics to the personnel, is a good trait. But, how much is too much? What is there to be said of picking one system with the aim to master it, or at least maximize it? TBD.

  • Still left entirely unanswered: What is this squad’s strongest XI? Obviously, in a macro sense, we won’t see it at this tournament. Tyler Adams and John Brooks feature in that. Tim Weah and Josh Sargent (hopefully) will in the near future.

For this squad… it’s still very much up in the air. Altidore and Matt Miazga started on the bench. Ream remained unconvincing. Will Berhalter reinstate Wil Trapp over Bradley at the base of midfield? What if Arriola or Boyd go cold? It’ll be a game-by-game development on this front until the US are eliminated or lift the trophy.

  • Weston McKennie limped out of the game injured: It was a brutal sight for USMNT supporters because, simply put, that would be a gut punch if it’s serious enough to keep him out of a team already missing a few regulars. But after the game Berhalter downplayed the significance, saying he “should be okay” and that he had “a little bit of a cramp.”

So, on to Trinidad and Tobago in Cleveland on Saturday, out to exorcise the demons from 20 months ago. Oddly enough, the last time the US won a competitive match 4-0? The game before that fateful day in Couva.

 

USMNT Player Ratings: High marks for creators Boyd, Pulisic, Arriola

June 19, 20191:59AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

It took a while for their field tilt domination to pay dividends, but the US men’s national teamultimately pulled away from underdogs Guyana to post a comfy 4-0 victory in their opening Concacaf Gold Cup group stage match.Wingers Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd keyed the happy result by forcing the visitors onto their heels time after time. The duo combined for three goals and an assist, and could have chalked up more counting stats with a little more final-third cutting edge from teammates.

Zack Steffen (6.5) — The US netminder was reduced to spectating for most of the game, but came up with a solid stop the one time he was called upon.

Nick Lima (7) — Even if his cross accuracy wasn’t always optimal, the San Jose right back gave Guyana a torrid time by racing into the final third. Lima also slid inside to test the goalkeeper on one surge forward and did well making defensive challenges.

Walker Zimmerman (6.5) — The main takeaway from this game was  Zimmerman’s ability to prod the team forward with incisive passes and creeping possession support, especially in the first half. The LAFC defender’s grade takes a slight hit for one iffy pass out of the back and a case of wayward positioning, each of which put the team under duress.

Aaron Long (5) — The New York Red Bulls center back was mostly safe with the ball and in positioning, but he twice misjudged potentially dangerous crosses as they sailed past in the area. That can’t happen when the opposition gets tougher.

Tim Ream (5) — After making some solid defensive interventions early, the Fulham veteran had a few shaky moments at the back. Ream largely played it safe on the ball, but with tougher tests ahead, it would be nice if his splitting-pass game returned on short order.

Michael Bradley (6.5) — The US skipper was playing his first game in a month, and the rust was plain to see on both sides of the ball in the first half. Bradley was considerably better after the break, both in guarding the gate and passing. In the 51st minute, his trademark diagonal-ball assist for the second earned the team some needed breathing room.

Weston McKennie (6) — The Schalke youngster definitely had his moments playing wingers into the final third, such as when his perfectly-weighted entry pass sent Arriola into the box for the opener. However, he can still be more consistent in winning midfield battles and controlling the flow of play.

Christian Pulisic (6) — The fresh Chelsea catch will have much better nights finishing plays around the area, but his insistent attacking nature in the middle of the field helped open up space for the wide threats.

Tyler Boyd (9.5) — The new flank terror on the scene was far and away the best US player in the opening frame, and eventually got his just rewards with a pair of well-struck goals. Boyd repeatedly got behind the Guyana defense, picked all the proper crosses, delivered tempting corners and even worked hard to get back on defense. Bravo and welcome aboard, sir.

Paul Arriola (8) — The D.C. United man’s constant exploitation of space out wide effectively set the table for the rout. Arriola lashed home a beaut for the opening goal and repeatedly played the team into dangerous positions until he notched a late assist.

Gyasi Zardes (5) — Setting aside his “oopsy daisy” goal, the Columbus striker could have provided a lot more in attack. The effort was always there, but clumsiness in touch and choices kept Zardes from making the required impact up front.

Coach Gregg Berhalter (7) — The boss asked for a methodical win prior to kickoff and that’s precisely what he got. Berhalter wisely tinkered with his right back wrinkle, electing to send Lima straight down the flank instead of having him overload central midfield. With Ream acting as a stay-at-home left back, the plan eventually paid off.

Subs

Wil Trapp (6) — The Columbus midfielder didn’t open up the game with his usual traffic direction passes, but sticking to the safe routes was enough against this opponent.

Cristian Roldan (6.5) — When the US build started to flag, Roldan hopped off the bench to bring some needed juice. He also battled much better in his own end than in recent caps.

Djordje Mihailovic (6) — In a short shift, the Chicago midfielder showed that he’s capable of being a late transition weapon during this tournament.

 

Boyd emerges with 8/10 showing as U.S. stars struggle to victory

Jun 19, 2019Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer

While it was never comfortable, the United States opened up its Gold Cup defense on Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a 4-0 win over tournament debutants Guyana. After taking a one-goal lead into halftime, the Americans put in three more goals in the second half to secure maximum points.

Positives

Following two warm-up friendlies that ended in losses and no goals scored, the clean sheet and the offensive output are significant positives for Gregg Berhalter’s team. The needed confidence boost on both ends of the field will serve the team well moving forward into the tournament.Both wingers stood out, with Tyler Boyd putting in a particularly impressive showing. The newly minted U.S. international scored twice and was a constant menace on the right side of the Americans’ formation.

Negatives

It took too long for the United States to get going against the 177th-ranked nation in the world. The lone goal in the first half was a good one, created through the work of Weston McKennie and finished by Paul Arriola, but Berhalter’s team struggled to create clear-cut chances through the first 45 minutes.A couple of dodgy defensive moments nearly allowed a breakthrough from Guyana, a warning sign for future matches against better competition. The late injury to McKennie is a cause for concern.

Manager rating out of 10

6 – The choice to start Gyasi Zardes over Jozy Altidore is hard to defend in a vacuum, but it appears that Altidore was not fit enough to be in the first XI. With the U.S. up 3-0 after the first hour, Berhalter was able to pull two key players in Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley. Tactics were of a secondary concern against an overmatched opponent, which means that judgment will have to be reserved for games against the stronger teams in the group.

cite=”https://twitter.com/cboehm/status/1141192419582627840&#8243; data-tweet-id=1141192419582627840 data-scribe=”section:subject” data-scribe=”element:user_link” aria-label=”Charles Boehm (screen name: cboehm)” style=’color:inherit;text-decoration:inherit;-webkit-box-flex: 0;flex: 0 0 auto; outline: 0px;font-weight:inherit’ class=”imageLoaded lazyloaded” data-image-container=.inline-photo v:shapes=”_x0000_i1025″>Tyler Boyd had a night to remember with a two-goal showing. AP Images

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

GK Zack Steffen, 6 — Forced into one reasonably difficult save and made it. Made no obvious errors with distribution, an improvement over recent matches.

DF Nick Lima, 5 — Occasionally dangerous up the field, overlapping with Boyd on the right side. Crossed effectively. Exposed in one vs. one defensive situations a few times.

DF Aaron Long, 4 — Showed signs of rust. Slow to respond to two crosses in the box, unnecessarily complicating what should have been simple defending.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 5 — Far from perfect but provided the passes from the back needed to help spark the U.S. going forward. Part of a back line that wasn’t clean enough for comfort.

DF Tim Ream, 5 — Mixed a number of competent defensive moments in with intermittently poor passing and a bad moment 10 minutes from halftime scrambling to deal with a Guyana cross.

MF Michael Bradley, 4 — Struggled in the first half, committing several giveaways after getting caught in possession. Provided a patented diagonal to set up the second goal.

MF Tyler Boyd, 8 — Best of the Americans on the night. Aggressive and dangerous going forward. Scored twice and could have had a third.

MF Weston McKennie, 5 — Provided a pair of key passes in the first half. Sloppy with possession and close control with the U.S. pushed up and vulnerable.

MF Christian Pulisic, 5 — Frustrating night for the best American attacker. Showed ability to dribble through defenders, but lacked the final ball or shot to make those moments count.

MF Paul Arriola, 7 — Scored an excellent goal to relieve the pressure on the U.S. in the first half. Consistently good with first touch and decision-making.

FW Gyasi Zardes, 4 — Made good runs but was let down time and again by a bad first touch. Scored, but not intentionally.

Substitutes

MF Wil Trapp, NR — Smart and in control with the U.S. well ahead in the final half-hour.

MF Christian Roldan, NR — Got off a shot and helped spray the ball wide into space after coming on for Pulisic.

MF Djordje Mihailovic, NR — Made one clear poor decision with the U.S. pushing for more goals late in the game and had a limited impact because of it.

 

Boyd double guides U.S. to Gold Cup-opening win

Jun 18, 2019ESPN and Jeff Carlisle

Tyler Boyd scored twice as the United States started its Gold Cup campaign with a 4-0 win over Guyana at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday night.

U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter made three changes from the lineup that started a 3-0 loss to Venezuela on June 9, the last of 18 exhibitions for the Americans since the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended a streak of seven World Cup appearances. He inserted Michael Bradley as captain for the first time in his tenure, Christian Pulisic into the midfield and Walker Zimmermanin central defence, removing Wil Trapp, Christian Roldan and Matt Miazga.  Guyana frustrated the U.S. in the opening 30 minutes, but the Americans found a way through just before the half-hour mark when Paul Arriola picked up a pass from Weston McKinnie and blasted a shot past Akel Clarke to make it 1-0.

“We knew we had to get started on the right foot and after breaking the ice, we were able to break them down,” Arriola said.”The most important thing was to win with confidence and clarity and I think we did that today. It’s a great start for us but it’s just one game.”Gyasi Zardes had a golden chance to double the lead right before half-time but inexplicably whiffed on the doorstep after Arriola had headed the ball back across the goal to him.he U.S. got off to the perfect start in the second half when Boyd cut inside to his left foot in the 51st minute and hit a nice low line drive past Clarke to double the lead.Boyd’s 52nd minute-goal, his first for the U.S. national team, marked the 1,000th in program history in match No. 700.=Zardes was credited for the third goal in somewhat bizarre fashion as a headed clearance from the Guyana defense bounced hard off the Columbus Crew forward’s forehead and went into the back of the net.Such was the manner of the result that Berhalter could afford to joke about the fortuitous manner of Zardes’ goal.”It was a great reaction from him. It was a really good reaction. You see strikers, they can just sell things like that,” Berhalter joked after the match.It’s funny, the two goals that he’s scored so far for us, since I’ve been around, have been very interesting goals. But I talked to him after in the locker room, and he said, ‘I’ll take it,’ and I don’t blame him. I’d take that also.”Again, Gyasi is a tremendous worker, a guy who you know exactly what you’re going to get from in the game. I’m really proud of him and how he performedBoyd then scored another excellent goal, this time courtesy of a slight deflection, this time cutting onto his right foot firing home from just outside the area to make it 4-0 in favor of the U.S.The victory was the biggest yet for Berhalter, who was hired in December after the United States failed to make last year’s World Cup.”The first game of a tournament is always a little bit nervy,” he said.”I remember back in the day in youth soccer tournaments, the first game it’s always a little bit nervy, and we expected a lot of the same. We told the guys to enjoy the experience, it’s competition time. And I felt that we slowly got out of the nerves and started playing.”I think we got stronger as the match went. I liked how we kept going.”We, for the most part, stayed organized. That was the focus, not getting too stretched even though the scoreline was what it was. We wanted to stay compact and keep moving. Overall, I think it was a good start to the tournament.”If there was one concern from the match, it was the sight of midfielder McKennie hobbling off in the 74th minute with what looked like a hamstring injury. But Berhalter indicated he didn’t think the injury as serious.”Weston should be okay” he said. “It seemed like it was a little bit of a cramp, so we think he’s alright.”Next up for Berhalter’s side, which is atop Group D on goal differential, is a much-anticipated match against Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday, while Guyana will face Panama on the same day.

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6/14/19  US Women World Cup vs Chile Sun 12 noon on Fox, US Men prepare for Gold Cup Tues, Copa America Starts Tonight, Full TV Game Schedule

Since I wrote the following the night after the USA Dismantled Thailand 13-0 – the story has captured both the nation and the world.  I have heard the arguments on both sides and sorry but I stand by what I say below.  Now because of the huge win and controversy around it – I do expect the Women’s World Cup ratings to soar even higher in the next few weeks – especially Sunday at noon as the US face Chile on Fox.

US Women Embarrass Thailand and Themselves with 13-0 win in WC

I have had to check myself this week after the US Men’s loss last weekend and now after the demolition job done by the #1 Ranked US Women on Thailand.  Listen I have no issue with a 7 to 8 to zero victory in a game like this.  But 13-0 and celebrating like you won the World Cup each time – even our Dam Coach was in on it.  I am ok with sending a message especially after France spanked you in your last competitive match on the road 3-1 last January.  But 13-0 is ridiculous against a tiny – outmatched nation like Thailand.  If this was Sweden or Germany  – an established power – I might understand.  But what the heck do you get out of embarrassing a country where you could name the score.   We actually pulled 2 defenders, went to a back 3 and put on 3 more forwards/wingers with the score 6-0 in an attempt to score more goals!  I could see that for practicing being behind and having to score a goal or 2 late.  But then they kept going – 9, then 10, then 11 – seriously!  And it was Morgan, Rapinoe, Lloyd – all established veterans scoring?  Why?  It’s not like all countries are equal in Women’s soccer – some like Thailand are just lucky to get to the World Cup – as they try to build excitement and respect for the women’s game in their country – just to be punked around by the US?  Alex Morgan scores 5 goals ?  So What? Save that for when it counts.  I for one was embarrassed and humiliated by the reaction of the US players and coaches.  Of course, I have been beaten that bad in sports so I know what it feels like – and when my teams won that big – it was with severe restrictions like all defenders and GK up front and use your left foot only and everyone must touch the ball before we shoot.  Seriously – since when did SPORTSMANSHIP become un-American?  We are lucky someone didn’t take out Rapinoe or Morgan with a dirty tackle.  I honestly think this sets the US up for 1st in Group F and a LOSS in the Quarterfinals to home-squad France, who looked just as impressive without the embarrassing score line, on opening day.  And the Entire World will be on their feet screaming for that to happen after this display of punkhood by the US.  Sorry Soccer Fans – I am glad we won – and I want the US  Women (I refused to call them ladies after that classless display) to do well – but I can’t help but think we acted like total punks in our first win.  No Wonder everyone hates the US!  Good Luck USA  – but I have to admit I am really embarrassed to be an American Soccer Fan today.  Thanks, but NO THANKS – Learn some Humility, and Sportsmanship before claiming you are champions!

The US Women play another outmatched team Chile on Sunday at 12 noon on Fox.  Chile hung strong with Sweden for the first 75 minutes before losing 2-0 after a long lightning delay in their first-round match.

Now overall – I have really enjoyed watching this Women’s World Cup so far – there have been mostly competitive and close games even with so many new teams in the World Cup this time.  Can’t wait to see the third round games – and the next rounds on Fox and Fox Sports 1 – who is doing a great job delivering these games with proper pregame and post game coverage.  I sure do miss Fox Sports having Champions League.  World Cup tonight every night at 10 pm or 10:30 has been solid and they replay the day’s games every night on FS1, FS2 and Fox Soccer – in case you miss the games.  Great to not have to pay a fee to watch soccer in America (ESPN+ or TNT)!  Oh and the Commercials have been pretty good too! Hulu Germany’s Ad, USA Fox David vs Goliath, Nike’sCoca-Cola

Gold Cup Starts Sat thru July 7  

The busy slate of soccer continues this weekend as both the Gold Cup and Copa America get underway this weekend.  Fox Sports will have all the Gold Cup games starting Saturday night as Canada will open with Martinique Sat at 7:30 pm on FS2, followed by Mexico vs Cuba at 10 pm on FS2.  The US will face Guyana on Tuesday night at 10 pm on Fox Sports 1. Full Gold Cup Preview  in what better end up as Mexico vs the United States.  Of course Jamaica found a way to knock out Mexico’s third string team 2 years ago – but this year its Mexico who should be on top with the US and new coach Gregg Berhalter hoping to get his banged up US Squad there as well.   Must see early games are 6/19 Wed Canada vs Mexico FS 2 10:30 pm, Sat 6/22 8 pm on FS1 – USA vs Trinadad and Tobago for the 1st time after beating the US to knock us out of the World Cup.

US U20s bow out of World Cup in Elite 8

Our U20’s lost a heart-breaker 2-1 to Ecuador the South American U20 champion in the Quarterfinals – marking the 3rd straight time the US was knocked out in the Quarters of the U20 World Cup.  I was disappointed the US did not find a way to win this game especially as Ecuador lost to South Korea thanks to a great Goalie.  South Korea will face Ukraine at 2 pm on FS2 Sat.  Still overall I thought Tab Ramos did a fine job coaching this team (I would love to see him move up to the U23s now!), the US out-possessed most teams in the tourney and really had a solid attack – we just couldn’t finish enough.  But we really outplayed Ecuador and France – now it will be exciting to see what’s next for the U20 stars like PSG’s Tim Weah, Dallas’ Paxton Pomykal, Hannover’s Sebastion Soto (4 goals) and Chris Gloster, Bayern’s Chris Richards and when they might join the full USMNT.

Copa America Starts Today thru July 7

A full preview on Copa America as Brazil will host the tourney for the first time in 30 years.  Chile will look to defend back to back titles, while Messi and Argentina will look to finally grab silverware for his country for the first time.  Of course, much is also expected of Brazil on home soil – despite Neymar being out injured. Brazil gets started tonight vs Bolivia at 9:30 as all the games in the US are on ESPN+.  Must see games are tomorrow 6/15 at 6 pm Argentina vs Colombia on ESPN+, Mon 6/17 Chile plays Japan at 7 pm on ESPN+,  while Tues 6/18 gives us Brazil vs Venezuela 8:30 pm.  (how good is that Venezuela team that destroyed the US 3-0 last week really?)

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GAMES ON TV

USA Women’s World Cup June 7-July 7

  • Sun, June 16: Noon ET, Fox                 S. vs. Chile,
  • Thurs, June 20: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Sweden
  • Sun, July 7 3 pm ET, Fox Women’s World Cup Finals from France

Fri, June 14

8:30 pm ESPN+ Copa – Brazil vs Bolivia

Sat, June 15

9 am Fox Sports 1                   WWC Netherlands vs Cameron

12 noon Fox Sport 1                U-20 WC Final

  • 3 pm FS2 WWC Canada vs New Zealand
  • 3 pm ESPN+ Venezuela vs Peru  Copa America
  • 6 pm EPSN+ Argentina vs Colombia Copa America
  • 7:30 pm ESPN+ Loudoun United vs Indy 11
  • 7:30 pm FS2 Canada vs Martinique GOLD CUP
  • 10 pm FS2 Mexico vs Cuba GOLD CUP

Sun, June 16

9 am Fox Sports 1                   WWC Sweden vs Thailand

12 noon Fox               WWC USA vs Chile

3 pm ESPN+                            Uraguay vs Ecuador COPA

6 pm Fox Sport 2                    Haiti vs Bermuda Gold Cup

8:30 pm FS1                            Costa Rica vs Nicaragua Gold Cup

Mon, June 17

12 noon Fox Sports 1              WWC China vs Spain

12 noon Fox                            WWC South Africa vs Germany

3 pm Fox                                                 WWC Nigeria vs France

  • 3 pm FS 1 WWC Korea vs Norway

Tues, June 18

3pm Fox Sports 1                    WWC Italy vs Brazil

3 pm Fox                 Sport 2                    WWC Jamaica vs Australia

7:30 pm FS1                            Panama vs T&T Gold Cup

8:30 pm ESPN+                       Brazil vs Venezuela Copa

10 pm FS1                   USA Men vs Guyana Gold Cup

Weds, June 19

3pm Fox Sports 1                    WWC Japan vs England

3 pm Fox Sport 2                    WWC Scotland vs Argentina

8 pm FS1                                 Cuba vs Martinique Gold Cup

8:30 pm ESPN+                       Argentina vs Paraguay – Copa

10:30 pm FS1                          Mexico vs Canada Gold Cup

Thurs, June 20

12 noon Fox Sports 1              WWC Cameron vs New Zealand

12 noon Fox                            WWC Netherlands vs Canada

3 pm FOX                             WWC USA vs Sweden

3 pm FoxSport 1                    WWC Thailand vs Chile

7 pm ESPN+                            Uruguay vs Japan Copa

7:30 pm FS1                            Nicaragua vs Haiti Gold Cup

9:30 pm ESPN+                       Costa Rica vs Bermuda Gold Cup

Sat, June 22

11:30 am Fox Sports 1            WWC Round of 16 1B vs 3

3 pm Fox                                  WWC Round of 16

3 pm ESPN+/Tele/Fubo          Peru vs Brazil

5:30 pm FS1                            Guyana vs Panama Gold Cup

7 pm ESPN+                 Indy 11 vs Atlanta United 2

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Cincy vs LA Galaxy

8 pm FS1                     USA Men vs Trinadad & Tobago – Gold Cup

Gold Cup TV Schedule June 15– July 7

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

International Champions Cup Schedule July 16-Aug 18

US Women – World Cup

Pack Mentality – How US Geared Up for month in France

Hays: USWNT makes opening statement with record win

USWNT Was right to Run Up the Score – Dan Wetzel USA Today

Canadian Broadcaster Receives Death Threats after criticizing US Goal Celebrations  US Players Not Sorry for Celebrating Goals – Doug McIntire Yahoo Sports

US Routs Thailand – 13-0 questions of Sportsmanship – SI – Grant Wahl

Solo Criticizes US for Goal Celebrations – Yahoo sports

Hope Solo Not Thrilled with Goal Celebrations – the Guardian

Alex Morgan Building Up to this Role – ESPNFC

US Game Report – US Soccer

Germany’s Star Midfielder out with Broken Toe

Reactions After First Round of Games – SI

SI – WWC Predictions

Handball Rule under the Spotlight using Var

US Men Gold Cup

ESPN Gold Cup Preview –Can US get to Finals with Mexico ?

U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter Q&A: Pulisic’s best position, beating Mexico in the Gold Cup and moving on from World Cup failure

Gold Cup Preview – Forbes

Group C – Breakdown

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2019: Group B Preview – Stars and Stripes FC

Berhalter sees Gold Cup as ‘learning process’

Berhalter, U.S. have myriad problems to solve before upcoming Gold Cup

U.S. national team roundtable: Should we be worried about their Gold Cup chances?

Tyler Adams to Miss Gold Cup

Concacaf Rankings: Who’s best in the region?

USMNT Gold Cup mission: “Time to start winning” Video

Gold Cup Breakdown – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Berhalter on Adams, Gold Cup: “We’re here to win”

Donovan – US No Longer Kings of CONCACAF ESPNFC

Martino has Mexico firing ahead of Gold Cup as players highlight positive changes

CanMNT meet Martinique as Gold Cup curtain raises

Mexico duty ‘makes you tired mentally’ – Guardado

Gold Cup Home on ESPNFC

U20’s post Mortem – What’s Next for U20 Prospects – Matt Doyle MLS.com

UNITED STATES, Group D

Group games: vs. Guyana (6/18, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Trinidad and Tobago (6/22, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Panama (6/26, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 24  SPI chances of winning: 43.4 percent

Why they’ll go far: This Gold Cup represents a full clean slate for the U.S. team since their World Cup qualifying disaster, and the new generation of U.S. players will be keen to stake their claim and erase the nightmare of the past 20 months. There is Champions League quality in midfield with Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic, plus head coach Gregg Berhalter can count on having one of the deepest squads at the tournament to counter the injuries and suspensions that are sure to come.

Why they won’t: The U.S. suffered from poor center-back play in World Cup qualifying, and there are still plenty of question marks over whether Long, Ream and Miazga can get the job done. If Brooks isn’t 100 percent, he can be really bad. Injuries are also a worry up top. Altidore’s track record of health is not the best, and who exactly will be scoring the goals for the U.S. has yet to be answered.

Player to watch: Christian Pulisic

Best XI (4-4-2): Zack Steffen; Tyler Adams, Tim Ream, Matt Miazga, Antonee Robinson; Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Paul Arriola; Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes

World

Scheduling Snafu’s with 3 Tourney Finals including Ladies World Cup Final on July 7 – Shows disregard for Women by FIFA – – Yahoo

Copa America Preview

Copa America 2019 Rankings: Who Needs to Win the Competition the Most?

MLS

Doyle: Sorting out a slimmed down Week 15 in MLS

2019 U.S. Open Cup Bracket

2019 MLS Ambition Rankings: Who Is Keeping Up in League’s Arms Race?

Elfath given whistle at FIFA U-20 World Cup final

Austin FC break record for season tix deposits

GoalKeeping

Great Saves in WWC Lydia Williams vs Italy’s Laura Guiliani

Argentine Keeper Correra big timed Japan

Women’s World Cup Top Saves Sunday

South Korean Keeper Gwang-Yeon got them to U20 WC Finals

MLS Saves of the Week

Dutch Keeper Yann Sommer saved in Nations League

Manuel Neuer German GK embarrasses forward with footwork

Indy 11

Preview Sat Night game with Loundon United

Three Things Week 14

Indy 11 Extends Unbeaten Streak to 6 with 3-0 Win at Memphis

Defender Hackshaw to Represent T&T in Gold Cup

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Sat 9 am Soccer Talk with Greg Rakestraw on 1070 the Fan & 107.5 FM

 Women’s World Cup 2019: U.S. women make opening statement with record rout of Thailand

6:54 PM ETGraham HaysespnW.com

REIMS, France — The last team off the field four years ago in Canada, when it hung around amid the confetti to celebrate its third world championship, the United States was the last contender to take the field in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.The Americans looked like a team that was tired of waiting.Paced by a record-matching performance from Alex Morgan, whose five goals equaled Michelle Akers’ for the most by an American in a World Cup, the U.S. women routed Thailand 13-0 on Tuesday. The final tally set a record for the most prolific offensive performance in tournament history.Playing in front of a sold-out crowd at the Stade Auguste-Delaune that sounded and looked as if it were watching a game in Portland, Oregon, or New York rather than the north of France, the United States took the game to Thailand from the opening whistle.

Morgan nets five in U.S. women’s record rout of Thailand

In addition to Morgan’s five goals, Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis each scored twice, and Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh and Megan Rapinoe added single goals.By the end, the U.S. women weren’t competing against an overmatched Thailand as much as against what France did to electrify this nation last Friday in the tournament’s opening game. First and last, those were the command performances. It’s hard to argue the United States didn’t one-up the hosts.

Alex Morgan makes the stage hers

Earlier in the week, a French journalist asked Morgan how she felt about being the most popular non-French women’s player in France. As beloved as the home team is, she might have won over even a few of the locals Tuesday.Morgan has talked openly about the disappointment she felt with her own performance in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but she nearly matched the entire U.S. goal output in that tournament with her quintet of goals against Thailand. Better still, some of her best moves on the night came with the ball at her feet while trying to set up teammates. She was fully integrated into an attack operating at something close to its peak. That isn’t a coincidence.”To tie Michelle Akers’ record is obviously incredible,” Morgan said. “But even more than that, I think that this was such a great team performance for us. We were able to execute on so many chances that we had, and we showed just how diverse our attack really is. And we know that every goal counts in the group stages, and that’s why we had to keep going.”

How many goals is too many goals?

The U.S. women had the game comfortably in hand a few minutes into the second half, when Mewis made it 4-0. The game was long since settled by the time Mewis and Lavelle scored within two minutes of each other to make it 7-0 with more than 30 minutes to play.Still, on and on the United States came, wave after wave, creating chances and goals until the U.S. women had topped the 11-0 record win Germany put on Argentina in the 2007 World Cup.But to put blame on the United States ignores two obvious points. First, the Americans didn’t make the rules under which the number of goals scored is part of deciding the outcome of the tournament. Goal differential counts. The U.S. women want to win their group. Unlike just about any other sport, they have a vested interest in running up the score.And second, it isn’t the United States’ fault it can’t clear its bench. It is allowed three subs. It used three subs.”If this is 10-0 in a men’s World Cup, are we getting the same questions?” U.S. coach Jill Ellis asked at repeated queries about the score. “I think a World Cup, it is about competing, it is about peaking, it is about priming your players ready for the next game.”But beyond that, why is it the obligation of the U.S. team to act in the interest of a creating a picture of a falsely level playing field. Why shouldn’t FIFA or the Asian Confederation get blamed for not doing more to promote the women’s game in places where it lags behind?Are we really going to blame players for celebrating a goal, in many cases in their first World Cup, instead of looking at the underlying reasons for the disparity in the first place?It’s understandable that Thai players looked stunned and embarrassed after the game, far from the joyous scenes after they beat Ivory Coast in their World Cup debut four years ago. It is unfortunate for them. But it’s also competition. Both sides of it.”Obviously, we have the utmost respect for everyone we play,” Rapinoe said. “But it’s the World Cup, and that’s part of it. That’s part of growing the game and growing the pool.”   Here is a breakdown of the U.S. women’s total shot location (40), goal placements (13) and key numbers from the match:

  • The Americans’ 13 goals against Thailand were the most in a game in men’s or women’s World Cup history.The United States men’s national team has scored 12 World Cup goals in the past 6,202 days.Alex Morgan is the just the second player in Women’s World Cup history to score five goals in a single game. Michelle Akers was the first in 1991.

The kids are all right

Lavelle: USWNT made a statement in World Cup opener

The United States is the oldest team in this year’s World Cup, thanks to a core of veterans already in their 30s (a group that will include Morgan by the time the World Cup ends). But it’s also a team that featured six players making their World Cup debut in Tuesday’s starting lineup.None of them looked nervous. And the midfield looked positively precocious.With Julie Ertz starting in the back line in place of Becky Sauerbrunn, the entire midfield of Horan, Lavelle and Mewis started in their first World Cup game. All helped fuel the U.S. attack, well before each got on the score sheet. With Horan looking a lot like former standout Lauren Holiday in the deep midfield, sending passes around the field like a quarterback, Mewis and Lavelle brought their own considerable attacking skills to bear.”It gave us all a good feeling to know that we could contribute at this level,” Mewis said. “I know that for all of us, this has been a dream for so long. And to be able to contribute to the team out there and feel like we were doing something right felt really good.”It might also reveal something that after scoring a goal and drawing gasps of approval from many in the stands with some of her footwork, Lavelle wasn’t ready to bask in the praise.”I just think I didn’t connect some of my passes,” Lavelle said. “And I don’t think I was as clean, technically, as I should be.”There is always next time. And there will be many next times for this group of midfielders.

The opener the U.S. women needed

The camera on the world feed found Hope Solo a few times, the former U.S. goalkeeper in the arena, working as an analyst for the BBC. Solo’s recent criticism of U.S. coach Jill Ellis was the closest thing to a dark cloud over this team entering the opener. In making it all about the coach, Solo also boosted the idea that this was a team without its own identity, a team without the strong personalities to win anyway. Well, this looked like a team the United States is going to enjoy watching — and in many cases, getting to know in the coming weeks.

“I don’t know if we need to really make a statement,” Rapinoe said. “We’re us — I feel like it’s always on our backs anyway. … But yeah, we wanted to have a good performance and have a good feeling, obviously. We know the competition will be much stronger from here on out and, hopefully, once we get to the knockout stages.”The United States was always going to win this game, probably comfortably. But in making sure of success by playing so aggressively early — in a tournament in which many top teams have struggled to squeeze out wins — this U.S. team created breathing room for itself.

Ertz buys time for Sauerbrunn

Sauerbrunn, a veteran defender, was held out because of a minor quad injury, but team officials said before the game that she was at 95%, and the decision to sit her (she was in uniform and available) was precautionary. The U.S. women don’t play again until Sunday, giving her five extra days to recover. Without saying as much, the message was essentially that someone who played every minute in the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics could have played in a game in which the United States needed its defense.And no, there wasn’t a lot of defending for Ertz or anyone else to do. Yet, in anchoring a back line that had more than 300 collective caps — but only a fraction of them as defenders — Ertz looked the part of veteran leader after coming on as a young sensation in 2015. And in acting as the go-between for instructions from the bench and shifting to a holding midfield role at times, allowing the U.S. women to play out of a 3-4-3 for stretches, she highlighted this team’s versatility.The U.S. women are better with Sauerbrunn. They’re also better for knowing they have a darn good deputy.

All signs still point to a showdown with Sweden

It looked for much of the evening elsewhere as if Chile might copy fellow South American entry Argentina in springing a group-changing surprise. But where Argentina was able to hold on for a draw against Japan on Monday, Chile conceded two late goals after a weather delay and lost to Sweden in Group F.That means the U.S. women and Sweden are still on track for a group finale that will settle who finishes first (and takes a road that could lead through Paris and a quarterfinal against France). And with the goal differential it built up Tuesday, the United States could enter the finale knowing a draw would be enough to top the group.Sweden again goes first Sunday, playing Thailand in Nice. The U.S. women then play Chile in Paris.

No place for orange slices: Why USWNT was right to run up score against Thailand

Dan Wetzel  USA TODAY Columnist  Yahoo SportsJun 11, 2019, 10:07 PM

The United States women’s national team opened the World Cup on Tuesday by defeating Thailand 13-0.The most disappointing aspect of that result is that it wasn’t 14-0 — an early goal by Alex Morgan was disallowed due to a questionable offside call.Morgan still netted five goals, tying a World Cup record. Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis had two each. Lindsey Horan, Megan Rapinoe, Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd all added one. It was a complete beatdown, the largest margin of victory in World Cup history.And for everyone complaining it was too lopsided or unsportsmanlike or unfair … please, this is the World Cup, not some rec league where everyone gets a snack bag and an orange slice afterward.“This is a world championship,” said U.S. coach Jill Ellis.Thailand obviously isn’t at the level of the United States, the favorite this month in France. That’s unfortunate. Women’s soccer is still a developmental sport around the globe, mainly because national governing bodies have refused to invest in it. Maybe getting crushed — and witnessing just how beautifully women’s soccer can be played — will spark some soul searching back in And, yes, the U.S. is richer than Thailand. But this is also about will, not just money. The American men have all the resources they could ask for, yet they can’t play dead in a cowboy movie.To criticize the women for being too good and arguing they needed to make the final score “look good” for Thailand not just ignores the rules of World Cup play, but is a complete insult to every athlete on the field — on both teams.First off, this is group play. The top two teams will advance to the knockout stage. The Americans want to win the group and get, presumably, an easier draw in the knockout stage. Goal differential is the first tiebreaker.To stall the offense and win by a more “respectable” 5-0, for example, would put the U.S. at a decided disadvantage. Sweden, the other Group F contender, could just beat Thailand 13-0, or even 8-0, when they play. Then Sweden could have gone into its final preliminary stage game against the United States knowing that all they needed was a tie to win the group because the Americans went soft on Thailand.That would be a huge strategic advantage for Sweden, and thus a disadvantage for the U.S. In turn, by staking out a plus-13 goal differential in this game, should Sweden not be able to match the U.S. firepower against Thailand, then the Americans would have that advantage.The Americans didn’t make the rules, they are just playing by them. FIFA is clear — score goals. Lots of them.What about pulling all the starters? Well, first off, talent runs 23 deep on the U.S. roster, so that would only help so much. Lloyd, the hero of the 2015 World Cup, was a sub on Tuesday. That’s how good the U.S. is.Regardless, in World Cup games, teams are allowed just three substitutions, so eight starters are going to be out there no matter what. Again, those are the rules.Every other complaint ranges from patronizing to pathetic.Should the U.S. have not played as hard in an effort to somehow spare Thailand’s feelings? Well, why would anyone think the Thai players are so emotionally fragile that they couldn’t handle a lopsided scoreboard?This isn’t youth sports. These are grown women. They can deal with disappointment as well as the men.

Likewise, it’s absurd to think it would be less embarrassing if the United States just passed the ball around and didn’t shoot (and thus score) late. How so? Thailand would know the Americans were taking pity on them and didn’t see them as worthy competition. It would be humiliating.“I think that to be respectful to opponents is to play hard,” Ellis said.Afterward, some Thai players spoke about the honor of playing the best in the world, despite the result. Thailand celebrated when it qualified for the World Cup even though it knew it would be overmatched against quality sides. Just getting here was the accomplishment.  When you’re a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, you want your chance at Duke. You don’t want Coach K to tell Zion Williamson to go easy because maybe you are so dumb you won’t notice and thus feel like you actually are equals. No one would ever suggest such a thing.  Finally, there were complaints the U.S. players shouldn’t have celebrated their goals because scoring was so easy.Except, scoring a goal in the World Cup is never easy.  It might not have been difficult against Thailand in the second half, but that was just a single moment of the play. Just getting here required years and even decades of sacrifice and work from each and every American player (and their families, coaches and teammates through the years).To score in the World Cup is an accomplishment any serious player dreams about. For Pugh, Lavelle, Horan and Mewis, these were their first-ever World Cup goals. To say they shouldn’t celebrate the accomplishment or suggest it holds less value due to the opponent is to dismiss all the blood, sweat and tears it took to get here.Yes, the game was a massacre, but that’s what happens sometimes in sports. These American women aren’t here to go easy on anyone. They aren’t here to consider hurt feelings. That would be insulting to everyone involved.They are here to win and they’ll inspire a generation of girls around the globe by playing exactly how they did on Tuesday: full-throttle, unapologetic and with both power and creativity.They played the beautiful game, beautifully. It was something to behold, not condemn.

USWNT doesn’t see their 13-goal deluge as unsportsmanlike, and neither does a Thailand player

Doug McIntyre  Yahoo SportsJun 11, 2019, 7:36 PM

REIMS, France — The United States women’s national team hung a World Cup-record 13 goals on Thailand to open their title defense on Tuesday. And no, they were not about to apologize afterward for running up the score against a clearly overmatched foe, for a variety of reasons.Reason No. 1?“This is a world championship,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said flatly in her post-match news conference. “I think that to be respectful to opponents is to play hard. As a coach, I don’t find it my job to go and harness my players and reel them in because this is what they dreamt about. This is it for them.”The margin of victory was the largest at any previous World Cup, men’s or women’s. It was undoubtedly humiliating for the Thais, who are making only their second World Cup appearance this summer. There’s no getting around that.But the Americans had lots to consider beyond the feelings of their opponents or the fans watching, first and foremost goal differential. In a group that includes Sweden, which knocked the U.S. out of the 2016 Olympics and were the only team to take a point off the eventual champs in Canada four years ago, that tiebreaker could be the difference between finishing atop their foursome (one that also includes Chile) or not.“Goal differential matters,” said defender Kelley O’Hara, who helped open the floodgates when she set up the first of Alex Morgan’s five tallies just 12 minutes into the contest. “At the end of the day, you can’t feel bad for scoring as many goals as possible.”Perhaps the biggest reason to keep piling on had to do with momentum. Tournaments more often than not are won by the hottest team, not necessarily the best one. After the host country France, unanimously considered the Americans’ biggest challenger, beat South Korea 4-0 in the competition opener, the U.S. wanted to make a statement by coming out of the gates strong. “You play players who get hot,” Ellis said. “And if you can get as many hot as you possibly can, feeling good, feeling the back of the net, that’s so important. Those feelings are what can help you through the tournament in terms of the next game. We have to come out and play as hard as we possibly can every single game. This will be an incredibly hard World Cup. This is only game one.So Ellis was thrilled with the performance of Morgan, who scored just once in 2015, and just as pleased to see second-half substitutes Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd both score after coming on. “That was the message going in for me,” Lloyd said. “Just keep the foot down on the pedal.”Most of the questions to both Ellis and her players revolved around the lopsided scoreline, or if the Americans should’ve emphatically celebrated the six strikes that came after the 70th minute. “I’ll be honest,” Ellis said, “I sit here and I go, if this was 10-0 at a men’s World Cup, are we getting the same questions?”“It’s how you want to start a tournament,” she continued. “You want to have that feeling. It’s having players feel good about their game. It is about building momentum, it is about getting that first game under your belt. It kind of lights a little bit of a fire in terms of confidence, for sure.”That’s not to say the U.S. didn’t have sympathy for Thailand. After the final whistle, the Americans could be seen consoling their counterparts.“Thailand’s goalkeeper [Sukanya Chor Charoenying] had some good saves, and in the first half their team was organized,” said Lloyd, who tied a record by scoring in her fifth straight Women’s World Cup game. “Hopefully they continue to hold their heads high.”Meantime, Morgan made a point of having a quick word with Thai-American striker Miranda Nild who, like the U.S. headliner, starred at the University of California.“She said to keep my head up, and that this is only the first game. It was really sweet,” a visibly emotional Nild said. “We’re a developing program, we all know that. With this game under our belt, it will give us more knowledge going forward.”As Nild was being ushered away by a Thai team staffer, a reporter asked if she thought the Americans had been unsportsmanlike.“No,” she said.

Scoring 13 against Thailand was great, some of the US celebrations were not

Hope Solo

Carli Lloyd’s sympathy with the Thai goalkeeper was a far better expression of what the US team are about than any choreographed celebrations @hopesoloWed 12 Jun 2019 11.30 EDTLast modified on Wed 12 Jun 2019 15.20 EDT

Should the US have taken their foot off the pedal against Thailand? Absolutely not. When you respect your opponent you don’t all of a sudden sit back and try not to score. This is the World Cup and all you can do is play with heart, with passion, and with intensity. Doing that is showing the opposition respect.The 13-0 victory over Thailand on Tuesday was a comprehensive performance from the Americans. Every player looked fit. Every player looked like she had technical ability. They played as a team. They were good on set pieces. They looked like they were having fun. I loved seeing Rose Lavelle, Tobin Heath, and Kelley O’Hara combine so well. Alex Morgan displayed what a great player she can be.

The US scored 13 against Thailand but we still don’t know if they can defend

It was tough for me to watch some of the US goal celebrations – which have come under criticism – considering the scoreline. You do want the game to be celebrated and you do want to see players having fun but at the same time I thought some of the celebrations were a little overboard. A few seemed planned out and I do know some players spend a lot of time thinking about celebrations for the fans. It’s not always necessary. We haven’t won the World Cup yet. My favorite celebrations capture the rawness of the moment and are filled with spontaneous emotion. When that happens you actually see how much passion there is in the sport and how much pride the players have.

FacebookTwitterPinterest— Carli Lloyd expresses sympathy to Thailand’s Sukanya Chor Charoenying and Taneekarn Dangda after Tuesday’s game.

That said, one of the classiest things I saw was Carli Lloyd going directly to Sukanya Chor Charoenying, Thailand’s goalkeeper, after the game. Carli put her arm around her and supported her as they walked off the field. Thirteen goals on a goalkeeper has to be incredibly tough. As a goalkeeper, I don’t know how you deal with that many goals. I’ve had five scored past me and that was a heavy blow. I never wanted to feel that way again and it took me a long time to get over it. It is something that I have never forgotten.I would love to give some advice on how to deal with it but really you just have to suffer. Struggle helps us grow in life and soccer is similar. You have to feel the pain and find a way to get through it. Unfortunately, you have to go through it yourself. The goalkeeper is on her own. I hate to say that but it doesn’t matter what anyone says to you and it doesn’t matter who tries to comfort you. Goalkeepers have to deal with it ourselves. It does take time. It is hard and it is painful and we have to face it.I felt bad for the Thailand team in general, especially when I saw some players physically dejected and actually give up. That’s not good. By the end of the game they had nothing left and that was hard to see. The difference between the US and Thailand – who made the Asian Cup semi-finals just last year – is complicated and like the chicken and the egg. Do you open up the World Cup to grow the game? Or do you grow the game and then open up the World Cup? I think you have to first invest in the women’s game before you get to the World Cup but unfortunately that’s not what a lot of the federations around the world have done or do.

So what did we learn about the US from the game? We already knew that we can score goals and that we have a variety of ways to score goals. We already knew how skilled these individual players are. We did learn that the young players managed any nerves very well and that they can be fun to watch. The younger players certainly got their feet wet and got some World Cup experience. That will help them going into the next match against Chile.But what we still don’t know is if the US have a sound defense when they get tested. What we need to know is if some of these big name players – who did do really well against Thailand – can do it against the better teams. This American side is the best attacking team in the world, individually. I want to see all the players perform as they did against Thailand when it really matters and it really counts.

Adams withdraws from U.S. Gold Cup squad

8:07 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States defender/midfielder Tyler Adams has withdrawn from the Gold Cup with a groin injury, U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday.FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon has been tabbed to take his place on the roster.”Following further evaluation in New York City, the 20-year-old has been diagnosed with acute on chronic groin issues that will require a minimum of 6-8 weeks recovery period,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. The announcement is a huge blow for U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter, who is feeling some heat following two poor performances in Gold Cup tune-up losses to Jamaica and Venezuela.Adams was expected to take on a hybrid role in Berhalter’s system, playing as a right-back, but stepping into central midfield when the U.S. is in possession. Yet the RB Leipzig man missed a six-week stretch from the beginning of April until mid-May due to an adductor injury, and though he returned for a pair of games at the end of the campaign, including Leipzig’s 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal final, he was deemed insufficiently recovered to participate in the Gold Cup.  Adams had been scheduled to arrive at the U.S. camp on June 11. Now Berhalter will have to cope without one of his most important players. San Jose Earthquakes defender Nick Lima has filled the right-back/central midfield role in a few friendlies, but it remains to be seen if Berhalter will stick with the system when the U.S. opens the tournament against Guyana on June 18. Meanwhile, Cannon, 21, has made two appearances with the U.S., but none under Berhalter.He made his international debut in a 1-1 draw with Peru last October and followed that with another start against Italy a month later. Following his professional debut in 2017, Cannon has made 56 appearances for Dallas in all competitions, scoring one goal.

2019 Gold Cup ultimate preview: Can anyone topple Mexico or the U.S. this summer?

Jun 11, 2019ESPN staff

You have to go back to the 2000 Gold Cup to find a winner who isn’t Mexico or the United States, but 2019 sees both of those sides enter the tournament with more questions than answers, and they’ll be hunted down by teams full of dynamic young talent threatening to upend the order in North and Central America.The U.S. enter the tournament as defending champions, but all has not gone well for the Stars and Stripes since lifting their continental crown in 2017. After failing to qualify for last summer’s World Cup, the Americans jettisoned their second manager of the 2018 cycle and ushered in a new coach in Gregg Berhalter and a new generation of players to restart the program. (So far, the results have been less than promising.)Mexico, meanwhile, have a new coach of their own in Gerardo “Tata” Martino. While the former Atlanta United, Argentina and Barcelona manager inherited a much more stable situation than what awaited Berhalter north of the border, Martino must cope with a Gold Cup squad shorn of its biggest players, whether through injury or personal reasons.

ESPN FC’s Arch Bell dives into the biggest questions facing the U.S. and Mexico, a primer on some of the tournament’s biggest challengers and a team-by-team guide to all 16 teams hoping to make a run for this summer’s Gold Cup.

Jump to: U.S., Mexico vs. the rest | Key players | Must-see days and matches | Team-by-team guide

Key storyline: Can anyone stop U.S. or Mexico?

It’s not often that Mexico and the United States enter a major tournament with new coaches, but here we are with Martino, who has just a few friendlies under his belt with El Tricolor, and likewise for Berhalter.

Despite no Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hector HerreraCarlos VelaHirving Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Martino has the more talented squad and the expectations are always that Mexico wins this tournament. But with so many players turning down call-ups — MLS MVP front-runner Vela in particular — Martino is feeling some heat. It hasn’t affected them yet, as Martino’s a perfect four-for-four in games since taking over, but the stress of official tournament play is its own beast.Even without the aforementioned attacking players, Mexico still have the most talent in this tournament and are in good shape to win their eighth Gold Cup. Albeit just friendlies, El Tri have responded nicely to Martino with 13 goals in four friendly wins against Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela and Ecuador.- Full Gold Cup fixtures schedule

At the back, they are well stocked with Hector MorenoDiego ReyesCarlos Salcedo and others. Rodolfo Pizarro has enjoyed an excellent season at Monterrey and will bolster a midfield that includes Andres Guardado, Edson Alvarez and Jonathan dos Santos. Jimenez will be the man up top; it’ll take a near-perfect match to eliminate them.

It will be different for Berhalter. With the U.S. in a new cycle and the wounds still fresh from not qualifying for Russia 2018, U.S. fans will be keen to see how their team plays. While not winning the tournament would be disappointing, an attacking brand of soccer from a young U.S. team would be a decent consolation, though warm-up defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela have fans wondering what the best- and worst-case scenarios might be this summer.

There is an intriguing unknown surrounding the Gold Cup hosts at the moment. Berhalter has called upon plenty of experienced players, such as midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore, who are well-acquainted with lifting the Gold Cup trophy. He’s also counting on two players from his former club, Columbus Crew, in key positions, with Wil Trapp expected to anchor the midfield and Gyasi Zardes the back-up option at striker.

Defensively, center-back John Brooks failed to be healthy in time, meaning things look a little shaky all of a sudden: a back four of Nick LimaMatt MiazgaAaron Long and Tim Ream conceded three times to Venezuela in the first halfin their final tune-up. It’s not all bad, of course: Tyler AdamsWeston McKennie and Pulisic is a dream midfield trio that U.S. fans are pining to see, and this Gold Cup could be the start of something special. If Berhalter can find the right combo at the forward position, like finding a partner for Altidore, the U.S. can feel good about their chances.

– Carlisle: U.S. have many problems to solve before Gold Cup
– Berhalter: U.S. won’t scrap tactics after latest loss
– Martino’s first six months: The good, bad and ugly

Outside of Canada’s Cinderella conquest in 2000, no one from outside the “big two” of Mexico and the U.S. has ever won. Of the remaining teams, the first one that springs to mind is Costa Rica. Even without Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who withdrew from contention for the fourth consecutive Gold Cup, the Ticos have the ingredients to go all the way. One has to go back to the “Snowclasico” of 2013 to find the last time the U.S. beat Costa Rica with Navas in goal.

Other teams that could flirt with a deep run are Canada and Jamaica. The young talent is there for Canada with Alphonso Davies, while Jamaica were finalists in 2015 and 2017. The Reggae Boyz are a difficult out for anyone and did just stun the U.S. 1-0 in a tune-up at D.C. United’s Audi Field.

Beyond that, one team capable of a shock this time around is Curacao. They were three-and-out in 2017, but all three matches vs. Jamaica, Mexico and El Salvador were very close affairs. With a team boasting players from the top two divisions in the Netherlands, Curacao shredded opponents for 22 goals during CONCACAF Nations League qualifying to finish fourth in the table and punch their ticket again to the Gold Cup.

Taking coach Remko Bicentini’s team lightly would be a mistake.

Players to watch: Jimenez, Pulisic, Davies

Christian Pulisic: Ever since the infamous Trinidad and Tobago loss, Pulisic has hardly been seen in a U.S. uniform, with five appearances since October 2017. Without question he is, or should be, the leader of the U.S. team.

And so, the 2019 Gold Cup serves as Pulisic’s first chance to put his stamp on the U.S. team and dominate their CONCACAF opponents. The U.S.’s opener against Guyana on June 18 will mark 20 months since the team’s last official competitive match, and after a strong finish to the Bundesliga season with Borussia Dortmund, a good Gold Cup would be the right way for Pulisic to launch into his Chelsea career.

Raul Jimenez: With Hirving Lozano likely out and no Hernandez or Vela, Wolves striker Raul Jimenez will be the guy that Martino will rely on to supply the goals.

– Marshall: Martino has Mexico firing ahead of Gold Cup
– Marquez: Times have changed for El Tri stars

Jimenez excelled in his first season in the Premier League, scoring 13 goals in 38 league matches. He served as a substitute in last summer’s World Cup, coming off the bench in two matches, but after his fine season in England and at age 28, he is poised to take the Gold Cup by the scruff of the neck. His big, physical stature will suit him nicely against the big CONCACAF center-backs he’ll encounter.

Alphonso Davies: Davies had his international breakout two years ago in the 2017 Gold Cup, when he finished tied as the tournament’s top scorer with four goals at the age of 16. Now with a half-season of experience at Bayern Munich under his belt following his move from the Vancouver Whitecaps, it’s all there for Davies to be one of the top players at the tournament and lead Canada on a deep run.

Must-see days and matches

June 19, Mexico vs. Canada, Group A: This can be the game that Canada shows it is a major player in the region. There is talk about Davies, but fellow young attackers Jonathan David and Cyle Larin will be undaunted going against an experience Mexican defense. Canada’s history against Mexico is not good — they were drilled by El Tri 3-0 and 2-0 in a pair of 2018 CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers — but that was the pre-Davies era.

Mexico will, of course, enjoy the majority of fan support, but if they begin to struggle, the whistles and jeers will rain down. With so many key attacking players missing, the lack of goals could increase the pressure Mexico feels and anything outside of a decisive win will be heavily criticized.

June 20, Nicaragua vs. Haiti, Group B: For two teams that rarely faced each other up until a few years ago, this has become a bitter rivalry. The genesis came in March 2017 when the Pinoleros and Les Grenadiers squared off in a two-legged playoff for a berth in the 2017 Gold Cup. Haiti looked to be in control after winning the first leg at home 3-1 and was holding Nicaragua to a 0-0 draw heading into the final 10 minutes of the second leg. That’s when Juan Barrera exploded for three goals to stun the Haitians.

Twenty months later they faced off in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying and Haiti had the last laugh with a 2-0 win in Nicaragua.

June 22, United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago, Group D: Do we really need an explanation here? In April at the Gold Cup draw at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, an audible “oooohhh” was heard when these two teams were placed into the same group. Yes indeed: it’s the rematch of that October 2017 World Cup qualifier when the Soca Warriors dashed the Yanks’ World Cup hopes with a shocking 2-1 win in Couva. Most of the players have moved out of the U.S. frame in the time since — five players have carried over from that night in Couva in Bradley, Altidore, Pulisic, Paul Arriola and Omar Gonzalez — but there will be a lot of pressure for the U.S. team to deliver. Perhaps former U.S. international Landon Donovan put it best when right after the draw he told a pair of reporters, “Well, I know I’d be ready for that game …”

Team-by-team Guide

BERMUDA, Group B

Group games: vs. Haiti (6/16, 6 p.m. ET), vs. Costa Rica (6/20, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Nicaragua (6/24, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 175
SPI chances of winning: 0.1 percent

Why they’ll go far: Opponents would be unwise to count on an easy three points against Bermuda. After a poor start to Nations League qualifying, losing 3-1 to Aruba, Bermuda closed the four-match slate in very strong fashion with a 1-0 home win over El Salvador and then a comeback 3-1 win away to the Dominican Republic. Led by QPR forward Nahki Wells, Bermuda will be playing without pressure given their low expectations. Midfielder Zeiko Lewisand forward Justin Donawa are also proven goal scorers.

Why they won’t: Their defense faces a trial by fire given that it’s mostly comprised of amateur or semi-professional players. They performed admirably against El Salvador but rainy conditions last November in Hamilton helped slow down the Cuscatleco strike force. Whether they can contain the likes of Campbell, Nazon and Barrera will be a big question mark.

Player to watch: Nahki Wells

Best XI (4-5-1): Dale Eve; Donte Brangman, Dante Leverock, Jaylon Bather, Calon Minors; Roger Lee, Willie Clemons, Reggie Thompson-Lambe, Lejuan Simmons, Zeiko Lewis; Nakhi Wells

CANADA, Group A

Group games: vs. Martinique (6/15, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. Mexico (6/19, 10:30 p.m. ET), vs. Cuba (6/23, 6 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 78
SPI chances of winning: 2.8 percent

Why they’ll go far: The joys of youth. Davies and David are two exciting, talented players who can carry Canada to at least their first semifinal since 2007. Plus, there is enough experience to rely on with midfielders Samuel Pietteand Junior Hoilett. While most eyes will be focused on Mexico and the U.S., Canada can swoop in and make some noise. El Tri might get the best of them in the group stage, but the two could meet again in the semifinals.

Why they won’t: Yes, this is a different Canada but it is mostly inexperienced in big-time international matches. Two years ago they limped to a 2-1 quarterfinal defeat against Jamaica, and outside of some pretty easy fixtures in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying, this new core of players hasn’t been tested. A poor response to the first sign of adversity could make for a quick exit.

Player to watch: Alphonso Davies

Best XI (4-3-3): Milan BorjanDoneil HenryMark-Anthony KayeDerek CorneliusZachary Brault-Guillard; Samuel Piette, Jonathan OsorioScott Arfield; Junior Hoilett, Lucas Cavallini, Alphonso Davies

COSTA RICA, Group B

Group games: vs. Nicaragua (6/16, 8:30 p.m. ET), vs. Bermuda (6/20, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Haiti (6/24, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 38
SPI chances of winning: 12.4 percent

Why they’ll go far: Costa Rica don’t have the luxury of Navas in goal, but they showed in 2017 that a deep run can be made without Navas when they fell in the semifinals. Spearheading the Tico attack is forward Campbell, who was on fire in Liga MX with Leon, with two goals in the Liguilla and three during the month of May.

Why they won’t: There are plenty of questions surrounding the Costa Rica midfield. Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges boast loads of experience but there’s a huge gap between those two and the others. Their MLS-heavy defense with players like Kendall WastonGiancarlo Gonzalez and Francisco Calvo struggled at last year’s World Cup.

Player to watch: Joel Campbell

Best XI (5-3-2): Leonel Moreira; Giancarlo Gonzalez, Kendall Waston, Ronald MatarritaKeysher Fuller, Francisco Calvo; Celso Borges, Allan Cruz, Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell; Mayron George

CUBA, Group A

Group games: vs. Mexico (6/15, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Martinique (6/19, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Canada (6/23, 6 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 174
SPI chances of winning: 0.5 percent

Why they’ll go far: The Cubans are no strangers to Gold Cup competition. This will be their ninth appearance in the past 12 Gold Cups. They’re coming off a very good Nations League qualifying campaign in which their lone loss was to Haiti. Luis Paradela and Yordan Santa Cruz give Cuba a one-two punch that can do damage.

Why they won’t: Any time Cuba is in the U.S. in official competition, there is always the risk of player defections. Such was the case four years ago when a slew of players and a coach defected, leaving Cuba shorthanded. In a tournament like the Gold Cup where depth is the key, the defection situation always leaves them vulnerable and hampers any chance of a deep run.

Player to watch: Luis Paradela

Best XI (4-4-2): Sandy Sanchez; Erick Rizo, Yosel Piedra, Yasmany Lopez, Dariel Morejon; Roberney Caballero, Andy Baquero, Daniel Luis, Yordan Santa Cruz; Arichel Hernandez, Luis Paradela

CURACAO, Group C

Group games: vs. El Salvador (6/17, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Honduras (6/21, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Jamaica (6/25, 8 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 82
SPI chances of winning: 0.6 percent

Why they’ll go far: This is not a team lacking for weapons. Rangelo Janga hit six goals in the Nations League but won’t be at the Gold Cup. Not to worry, as other key contributors like Leandro Bacuna (three goals), Gevaro Nepomuceno(four goals) and Edson Hooi (three goals) will be present. With the large majority of their players plying their trade in the Netherlands’ top two divisions, Curacao have the talent to make a deep run. Premier League veterans Cuco Martina and Bacuna will be undaunted going against the likes of Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador.

Why they won’t: Curacao is still not very well-versed in the nuances of the CONCACAF game. They lost all three group-stage matches in 2017, albeit by narrow margins; if they get behind in a group stage match, they’ll need to keep their composure. Honduras and El Salvador are well acquainted with the art of frustrating opponents when ahead.

Player to watch: Leandro Bacuna

Best XI (4-4-2): Eloy Room; Cuco Martina, Shermar MartinaDarryl Lachman, Jurich Carolina; Shanon Carmelia, Leandro Bacuna, Michael Marina, Edson Hooi; Gevaro Nepomuceno, Gino van Kessel

EL SALVADOR, Group C

Group games: vs. Curacao (6/17, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Jamaica (6/21, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Honduras (6/25, 10:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 71
SPI chances of winning: 0.6 percent

Why they’ll go far: El Salvador has made it to the quarterfinals in three of the past four Gold Cups and will be plenty familiar with their group opponents. The Cuscatlecos defeated Jamaica 2-0 in Nations League qualifying and also faced the Reggae Boyz and Curacao two years ago in the 2017 group phase. With Nelson Bonilla and playmaker Gerson Mayen, El Salvador have the goods to win the group and potentially reach a first-ever semifinal.

Why they won’t: El Salvador have long had the problem of errors and mishaps at key moments completely wiping out their strong soccer. They can play a very good first half and then unravel in a 15-minute span, especially against superior sides. The defense can sometimes lack discipline and a lack of depth in midfield could hurt, especially if they come up against the U.S. in the quarterfinals. A clash of egos between coach Carlos de los Cobos and LAFC striker Rodolfo Zelaya means that the latter won’t be called, which is a shame considering Zelaya was El Salvador’s best player in the 2017 Gold Cup.

Player to watch: Nelson Bonilla

Best XI (4-5-1): Henry HernandezBryan TamacasIvan ManciaRoberto DominguezJonathan Jimenez; Oscar Ceren, Darwin CerenNarciso OrellanaJaime Alas, Gerson Mayen; Nelson Bonilla

GUYANA, Group D

Group games: vs. United States (6/18, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Panama (6/22, 5:30 p.m. ET), vs. Trinidad and Tobago (6/26, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 175
SPI chances of winning: 0.01 percent

Why they’ll go far: Nobody is expecting anything from Guyana so if any team has the impetus to stun their group stage rivals and put a charge into the tournament, it’s the Golden Jaguars. Led by former Birmingham City legend and Jamaica international Michael Johnson, Guyana have a core of players who play in England’s Football League, plus Philadelphia Union defender Warren Creavalle knows the U.S. team well. Forwards Sheldon Holder and Emery Welshman each fared well in Nations League qualifying and will be called on again in the Gold Cup.

Why they won’t: There simply isn’t the quality and depth for Guyana to make a serious run. They might be able to steal a point against Trinidad and Tobago or Panama, but overall the outlook is grim.

Player to watch: Emery Welshman

Best XI (4-5-1): Akel Clarke; Kadell Daniel, Sam Cox, Terence Vancooten, Ronayne Marsh-Brown; Anthony Jeffrey, Callum Harriot, Neil Danns, Keanu Marsh-Brown, Elliot Bonds; Emery Welshman

 HAITI, Group B

Group games: vs. Bermuda (6/16, 6 p.m. ET), vs. Nicaragua (6/20, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Costa Rica (6/24, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 100
SPI chances of winning: 2.5 percent

Why they’ll go far: Haiti will come into the Gold Cup feeling plenty confident about their chances of advancing far. Les Grenadiers topped CONCACAF Nations League qualifying with a perfect 4W-0D-0L record, 19 goals scored and just two conceded. The Haitians boast one of the region’s most in-form strikers in Duckens Nazon, who scored six goals in just two Nations League matches. Four years ago, Haiti proved a tough opponent for anyone they came up against. Derrick Etienne of the New York Red Bulls also provides strength in attack.

Why they won’t: There are still some vulnerable spots in the Haiti starting XI, specifically in midfield, where there just isn’t a lot of experience or depth. While Haiti’s talent can compensate for any midfield shortcomings against the likes of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Nations League, teams in the Gold Cup won’t be as forgiving. In a group in which a spot in the knockout round could come down to goal difference, Haiti’s lack of midfield depth could rear its head.

Player to watch: Duckens Nazon

Best XI (4-3-3): Johny Placide; Alex Junior Christian, Mechack Jerome, Ricardo AdeCarlens Arcus; Charles Herold Jr., Bryan Alceus, Wilde-Donald Guerrier; Duckens Nazon, Frantzdy PierrotMikael Cantave

HONDURAS, Group C

Group games: vs. Jamaica (6/17, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Curacao (6/21, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. El Salvador (6/25, 10:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 61
SPI chances of winning: 2.3 percent

Why they’ll go far: Honduras are no strangers to reaching the final stages of the Gold Cup. In 2009, 2011 and 2013 the Catrachos made it to the final four and head coach Fabian Coito will be expected to return them there in 2019. The attack is very promising in the form of Girona’s Anthony Lozano and Houston Dynamo duo Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. Elis in particular looks primed to take the next step at the international level.

Why they won’t: Honduras certainly does not lack for experience but the aging legs of Maynor FigueroaEmilio Izaguirre and Brayan Beckeles could exact a toll when the knockout round comes around. There are also questions in midfield. FC Dallas man Bryan Acosta looks a surefire starter, but after that Coito has to decide whether to go young or stay with age and experience.

Player to watch: Alberth Elis

Best XI (4-4-2): Luis Lopez; Emilio Izaguirre, Maynor Figueroa, Henry Figueroa, Brayan Beckeles; Michaell ChirinosLuis GarridoDanilo Acosta, Alberth Elis; Alexander Lopez, Anthony Lozano

 JAMAICA, Group C

Group games: vs. Honduras (6/17, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. El Salvador (6/21, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Curacao (6/25, 8 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 56
SPI chances of winning: 1 percent

Why they’ll go far: Been there, done that. Jamaica have defied the oddsmakers and reached the last two Gold Cup finals with a strong defensive team and opportunistic scoring. Head coach Theodore Whitmore, who constructed the team’s 2017 run, is back in the fold as are many of the protagonists from that team, like goalkeeper Andre Blake, left-back Kemar Lawrence and forward Darren Mattocks. There’s also the intangible of Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey, who finally accepted the call-up in May and will represent his place of birth despite reports he was trying to get eligibility to play for England. It remains to be seen how he’ll fit in just yet.

Why they won’t: At age 35, Watson does not have the speed and quickness of past years and that will be a concern. Also, Jamaica struggled to score goals in the final two games of Nations League qualifying, mustering just a pair of goals against Suriname and then being held scoreless at El Salvador. Mattocks and Cory Burke have their fair share of doubters.

Player to watch: Darren Mattocks

Best XI (4-4-2): Andre Blake; Kemar Lawrence, Damion LoweAlvas PowellMichael HectorDevon WilliamsJe-Vaughn WatsonRicardo Morris, Leon Bailey; Darren Mattocks, Cory Burke

MARTINIQUE, Group A

Group games: vs. Canada (6/15, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. Cuba (6/19, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Mexico (6/23, 8:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: N/A
SPI chances of winning: 0.0 percent

Why they’ll go far: Not a lot is expected of Martinique so they’ll hopefully be able to enjoy themselves in the U.S. this summer. Martinique performed quite well in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying to claim their Gold Cup berth, joining Haiti and Canada as the only teams with a 4W-0D-0L record. Two years ago, they put a major scare into the U.S. in a tough 3-2 group-stage loss thanks to Kevin Parsemain‘s two goals. He’ll be back leading the line and will be keen to make the bigger boys in the group sweat.

Why they won’t: While Martinique could spring a surprise and get a result against Mexico or Canada, they could also very well go three losses and out. Most of the players on the Martinique squad play in the country’s amateur league, while all their opponents play in some sort of professional capacity. Squad depth will also take a toll.

Player to watch: Kevin Parsemain

Best XI (4-4-2): Loic Chauvet; Sebastien Cretinoir, Yann ThimonJordy Delem, Samuel Camille; Christophe Jougon, Wesley Jobello, Stephane AbaulKarl Vitulin; Kevin Parsemain, Gregory Pastel

MEXICO, Group A

Group games: vs. Cuba (6/15, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Canada (6/19, 10:30 p.m. ET), vs. Martinique (6/23, 8:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 18
SPI chances of winning: 30.7 percent

Why they’ll go far: In every Gold Cup, the teams with the most depth rise to the fore. Playing every three to four days during a U.S. summer takes its toll, but Mexico have the deepest squad going into this tournament, especially in defense and midfield, and that should manifest itself in the knockout rounds. Mexico also boast one of the best goal scorers in the tournament in Jimenez and a sound tactician like Martino should be the thing that gets El Tri across the finish line first.

Why they won’t: If Jimenez gets hurt, Mexico could suddenly find themselves in a striker crisis, with Vela, Lozano and Hernandez already out. There is always a level of drama and off-field distractions that Mexico must contend with, and if El Tri are not up to their best in the group stage, the pressure from media and fans alike could lead to a toxic atmosphere that can’t be overcome.

Player to watch: Raul Jimenez

Best XI (4-3-3): Guillermo OchoaLuis RodriguezNestor Araujo, Carlos Salcedo, Jesus Gallardo; Edson Alvarez, Jonathan dos santos, Andres Guardado; Roberto Alvarado, Raul Jimenez, Rodolfo Pizarro

NICARAGUA, Group B

Group games: vs. Costa Rica (6/16, 8:30 p.m. ET), vs. Haiti (6/20, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Bermuda (6/24, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 129
SPI chances of winning: 0.04 percent

Why they’ll go far: For the second consecutive time, the Pinoleros are in the Gold Cup, and the lessons learned in 2017 — in which they lost all three games in somewhat close fashion — can be applied to this year’s edition. If they can keep things close in their opener against Costa Rica, there’s no reason why they can’t win their other games. Leading the way is Barrera, the national team’s all-time leading scorer with 17 goals. Coach Henry Duarte also has the experience of 2017 under his belt.

Why they won’t: Things could just as easily break the other way for Nicaragua. A lopsided loss to the Ticos could sink their efforts in the following two matches. There was also a 2-0 home loss to Haiti in Nations League qualifying, so questions will be asked if Nicaragua can overcome that mental hurdle when the two sides meet in the second match. Ghosts of 2017’s failure could come back to haunt.

Player to watch: Juan Barrera

Best XI (4-3-3): Justo Llorente; Josue QuijanoManuel Rosas, Luis Fernando Copete, Oscar LopezMarlon LopezLuis Galeano, Juan Barrera; Bryon Bonilla, Renato PunyedJorge Betancur

 PANAMA, Group D

Group games: vs. Trinidad and Tobago (6/18, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. Guyana (6/22, 5:30 p.m. ET), vs. United States (6/26, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 74
SPI chances of winning: 2.7 percent

Why they’ll go far: Despite the retirements of national-team stalwarts like Blas Perez and Felipe Baloy, Panama still have many familiar faces from teams that know how to battle in this tournament. New York Red Bulls’ Michael Murillo is one of the best defenders in the region, while in attack Montreal Impact man Omar Browne, who torched Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League, will be one to watch, along with forward Gabriel Torres. Also back in the fold is manager Julio Dely Valdes, who led Panama to the 2013 final.

Why they won’t: One can’t help but think that Panama is going to suffer a post-World Cup hangover for a while. Reaching the World Cup was such a momentous accomplishment, but with so many leaders leaving the team, it might take getting a few lumps in this Gold Cup for the Canaleros to fully adjust to being back in a new cycle. Also, outside of Torres, there isn’t really a proven goal scorer in the squad.

Player to watch: Gabriel Torres

Best XI (4-4-2): Luis Mejia; Michael Murillo, Harold CummingsFidel Escobar, Erick Davis; Alberto QuinteroArmando CooperAnibal GodoyJose Rodriguez; Edgar Barcenas, Gabriel Torres

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, Group D

Group games: vs. Panama (6/18, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. United States (6/22, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Guyana (6/26, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 93
SPI chances of winning: 0.4 percent

Why they’ll go far: After missing the 2017 Gold Cup, Trinidad and Tobago are back in the fold with a squad that boasts good experience in defense and midfield. Joevin Jones of the Seattle Sounders, Alvin Jones and Daneil Cyrusanchor the back, while Khaleem Hyland and Kevan George are two midfield stalwarts. Outside of Joevin Jones, what do those other four have in common? They all have experience beating the U.S. in competitive fixtures.

Why they won’t: While the sight of Alvin Jones may spook some of the U.S. players — he was the one that scored that long-range golazo on Tim Howard — the Soca Warriors don’t exactly have a scorer they can turn to in a time of need. Kenwyne Jones is now retired, and with this forward pool held scoreless in their past three friendlies, the jury is still out.

Player to watch: Joevin Jones

Best XI (4-4-2): Marvin Phillip; Alvin Jones, Makeil Williams, Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones; Kevan George, Nathan Lewis, Khaleem Hyland, Kevin MolinoShahdon WinchesterLester Peltier

UNITED STATES, Group D

Group games: vs. Guyana (6/18, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Trinidad and Tobago (6/22, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Panama (6/26, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 24
SPI chances of winning: 43.4 percent

Why they’ll go far: This Gold Cup represents a full clean slate for the U.S. team since their World Cup qualifying disaster, and the new generation of U.S. players will be keen to stake their claim and erase the nightmare of the past 20 months. There is Champions League quality in midfield with Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic, plus head coach Gregg Berhalter can count on having one of the deepest squads at the tournament to counter the injuries and suspensions that are sure to come.

Why they won’t: The U.S. suffered from poor center-back play in World Cup qualifying, and there are still plenty of question marks over whether Long, Ream and Miazga can get the job done. If Brooks isn’t 100 percent, he can be really bad. Injuries are also a worry up top. Altidore’s track record of health is not the best, and who exactly will be scoring the goals for the U.S. has yet to be answered.

Player to watch: Christian Pulisic

Best XI (4-4-2): Zack Steffen; Tyler Adams, Tim Ream, Matt Miazga, Antonee Robinson; Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Paul Arriola; Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes

2019 Copa America ultimate preview: Will Messi win this wide-open tournament on Brazil’s home turf?

1:06 PM ETESPN staff

Brazil will host the Copa America for the first time in 30 years, with a tournament that is full of drama. Chile will look to defend back-to-back crowns, the Selecao will seek redemption on home soil, and Lionel Messi returns to Argentina for another chance at silverware with the senior national team.

ESPN FC’s Tim Vickery spells out the biggest storylines of the tournament and assesses all 12 teams taking part in this summer’s Copa America, with all matches streaming live in the U.S. on ESPN+.

Jump to: Key storylines | Key players | Must-see days and matches | Team-by-team guide

Key storyline: This year’s Copa is wide-open

South American national teams have not been in competitive action since last year’s World Cup. Those teams that failed to make it to Russia have had nothing but friendlies since October 2017, but the silly season comes to an end with a bang in Brazil. It’s time to get serious.This summer’s Copa begins a new competitive cycle in South America, which will run all the way to Qatar at the end of 2022. Many new coaches are facing their first real challenges — of the 10 South American nations, six will be playing for points for the first time under their current coaches — and plenty of new players have been introduced. Whatever happens, when the story is written of the South American teams at the next World Cup, events in Brazil 2019 will form part of the narrative.The traditional powerhouses also have plenty of questions. The hosts’ being without Neymar has caused some anxiety, but frankly, they might perform better without him. Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus, fresh off fine seasons for Liverpool and Manchester City, respectively, will get the chance to definitively lead the line.Argentina have Messi back and fully engaged in the cause, but the squad around him — 15 of the 23-man squad have fewer than 15 international caps — is always a concern. He has often struggled when having to “do it all himself,” but this raw squad lacks the muscle memory of back-to-back defeats in the Copa final, both times to Chile. It might breed a sense of fearlessness that spurs them forward. Plenty of scrutiny will fall on interim boss Lionel Scaloni in what amounts to his first full-time management role, having previously been a national team assistant under Jorge Sampaoli and at Sevilla.Then there’s the issue of timing. Usually, the road to the World Cup starts very soon after the Copa America, but because Qatar 2022 will be played at the end of the calendar year, the qualifiers have been pushed back, and as a result, some of the urgency has been removed from the Copa. Beyond Argentina and their caretaker at the helm, Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay played their first games under new coaches as recently as March. Having so many “undercooked” teams will open plenty of room for surprises.Making things most intriguing is the choice of invited teams. Japan and Qatar take part in 2019, and it will be fascinating to observe their progress. Japan are a vastly better team than the one that performed poorly on their previous Copa appearance 20 years ago, and Qatar have proven that they have some quality, having beaten Japan earlier this year in the final of the Asian Cup. Playing in that competition could make the guests more battle-hardened than some of their opponents, making it a tough competition to predict.

– Vickery: With Neymar out, time for Brazil to step up
– When is the Copa America?
– Full Copa America fixtures schedule

Layered across all the present-day intrigue is the history and emotion of the Copa America itself. It is football’s oldest continental competition, a reflection of the extraordinary speed with which the game took hold in the south cone of South America in the first few decades of the 20th century. The tournament was contested for the first time in 1916, and in the early years, it was held as often as possible, often on an annual basis. This gave rise to an extraordinary improvement in standards and the development of a new style of play.

Both innovations became clear to a European audience when Uruguay caused a major upset by cruising to the gold medal in the 1924 Olympics, with a balletic game that astonished the crowds. Four years later in Amsterdam, they did it again, with Argentina winning silver. By then it was clear: There had to be a football competition open to all comers, amateurs and professionals alike, to find out who really was the best. And so the World Cup was born, staged in Uruguay in 1930, just 14 years after the little country organised the first Copa America. Uruguay won that competition too.

Jesus, James and Messi: Players to watch

Gabriel Jesus: Destined to be the solution to Brazil’s puzzling centre-forward problem, Jesus drifted out of form at the wrong time. After he scored so freely in qualification, it all went wrong in Russia 2018. The young Man City forward suffers the stigma of being a Brazil No. 9 who failed to score a single goal in a World Cup, and coach Tite later regretted not dropping him.Jesus was left out of Brazil’s first post-World Cup squad and spent the rest of the season as a backup option to Roberto Firmino, but he seems to have turned it around at the right time. With five goals in the past three games, Jesus should begin the Copa as the starter up front, where the pressure will be on him to carry his form into the tournament.

James Rodriguez: The breakout star of the 2014 World Cup, James will surely enjoy returning to the scene of his greatest triumph. He has endured a frustrating five years. Unable to be the main star in Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Real Madrid, he was loaned out to Bayern Munich, where he failed to shine, and now he faces an uncertain future. With the national team, though, there is no doubting his importance to the cause, something made obvious by the tameness of Colombia’s performances when he was injured during Russia 2018.

James clearly relishes his status with the national team, and on the evidence of the FIFA dates in March, this has not been altered now that Carlos Queiroz has taken over. He will probably be given a free role in the Copa, able to wander across the attacking line, causing problems to the opposing defence and reminding everyone of the brilliance of his 2014 displays.

Lionel Messi: Football fans are starting to realise that every Messi performance takes us closer to the end. It’s an added bonus, then, that some of those games will take place with Argentina.Following the disaster of the 2018 World Cup, when Argentina lost in easy fashion to eventual winners France, it was not clear that Messi would play for his country again. He sat out international duty until March, but now it is clear that he’s willing to enter one final cycle in a bid to win a senior title with the national team.There is a Copa on home soil next year, but the book will surely close with the 2022 World Cup. With this in mind and with Argentina currently coached by a caretaker, it would have been understandable if Messi had decided to take the summer off. Instead, he’s willing to put himself on the line once more, which adds an extra layer of interest to the competition.

Must-see days and matches

June 15, Argentina vs. Colombia, Group B: An excellent clash to light up the first Saturday of the Copa (live on ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET). Ever since Colombia’s astonishing 5-0 win in Buenos Aires back in 1993, this has been one of South America’s most entertaining matchups. Added spice comes from the fact that the pair will be co-hosting next year’s Copa and are engaged in a tug-of-war to decide which country will have the biggest knockout games, including the final.

Argentina, of course, have won two World Cups, but of the South American nations that have never won the World Cup, Colombia are probably the most likely to do so. This, then, in Salvador’s excellent Fonte Nova stadium, is a meeting of heavyweights.

June 17, Chile vs. Japan, Group C: Chile go into this game as reigning champions after finally getting their hands on the trophy in 2015 and winning again in New Jersey a year later. It is harsh on a team that is rebuilding, but the pressure is on them. The class of 2019 have a lot to live up to.

Equally, it will be intriguing to see how Japan perform (live on ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET). Back in 1999, in their previous Copa adventure, they were novices. They have since played the past six World Cups and should arrive in Brazil with no trace of an inferiority complex. Oh, and they’ll have no lack of support, either; they begin their campaign in the city with the world’s largest number of Japanese immigrants.

June 18, Brazil vs. Venezuela, Group A: Merely making up the numbers as recently as 20 years ago, Venezuela are now a serious force and underlined their progress with a convincing win over Argentina in Madrid. They have beaten Brazil in a friendly and held them to draws in competition, but at the senior level, they have never won a match against Brazil with points at stake. Convinced that the current side will take them to their first World Cup, they are now aiming high (live on ESPN+, 8:30 p.m. ET).

Brazil, meanwhile, will be under pressure. Can the Venezuelans take advantage? In one corner, the five-time world champions; in the other, the team with no tradition. It will be fascinating to see whether the outsiders have a shot.

Team-by-team Guide

Every game of the 2019 Copa America will be on ESPN+ in the U.S. this summer (all kickoff times ET).

ARGENTINA, Group B

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 11
SPI chances of winning: 13.96 percent

Why they’ll go far: The good news, signalled by his return to the national team in March, is that Messi is back in a bid to win a senior title with his country. The Barcelona genius, plus the likes of Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, still has plenty to offer, and over the past few months, there has been some pleasing development from midfielders Giovani Lo Celso and Leandro Paredes.

Argentina, then, can call on some dazzling individual talent — enough to give them a puncher’s chance. The 2018 tournament was such a shambles that expectations have fallen, which might prove to benefit Scaloni’s side.

Why they won’t: Going into a major tournament under the command of a caretaker coach is frankly bizarre. It has to do with the facts that Scaloni is cheap — the local FA had to dig deep to pay off Sampaoli — and that World Cup qualification doesn’t get underway until next March. In fact, it would almost be a problem if Argentina were to win the Copa: How could they get rid of Scaloni after landing the first senior title since 1993?

Uncertainty over the future, then, is clearly a problem. Although a more pragmatic side have been defending better since the World Cup, the headaches remain. There will surely not be a repeat of the ill-advised three-centre-back formation that collapsed against Venezuela in March. For all the wealth of attacking riches, there is a dearth of top talent at the other end of the field. In his first eight games in charge, Scaloni had a look at seven goalkeepers, which is surely excessive, and Argentina’s wait for a centre-back of undisputed quality shows no sign of coming to an end.

Player to watch: Lionel Messi

Best XI (4-3-2-1): Esteban AndradaRenzo SaraviaNicolas OtamendiGerman PezzellaNicolas Tagliafico; Giovani Lo Celso, Leandro Paredes, Roberto Pereyra; Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria; Sergio Aguero

 

BOLIVIA, Group A

Group games: vs. Brazil (9:30 p.m. ET June 14), vs. Venezuela (9:30 p.m. ET June 18), vs. Peru (4 p.m. ET June 22)

FIFA rank: 63
SPI chances of winning: 0.6 percent

Why they’ll go far: The last time Bolivia made any impact on the Copa was in 1997, when they reached the final — on home ground. Away from the extreme altitude of La Paz, it is hard to find too many strong points. Perhaps the main one is precisely the lack of expectations.

Bolivia are traditionally seen as sacrificial, but on a number of recent occasions, they’ve surprised complacent opponents. There is some evidence that coach Eduardo Villegas can field a dependable defensive unit, and the longer their matches stay goalless, the more chance that their opponents might overreach and leave themselves open to the counterattack.

Why they won’t: Bolivian football has yet to replace the fine generation of talented players who got them to the 1994 World Cup, and to the absence of genuine quality, they can add an absence of preparation time. The chaotic Bolivian FA keep chewing up and spitting out coach after coach, and the latest man in charge, Eduardo Villegas, was appointed in February. Bolivia could find themselves outgunned both technically and physically.

Player to watch: Marcelo Martins

Best XI (4-2-3-1): Carlos Lampe; Marvin Bejerano, Luis Haquin, Adrian Jusino, Diego Bejerano; Raul CastroLeonel JustinianoAlejandro ChumaceroSamuel GalindoLeonardo Vaca; Marcelo Martins

 

BRAZIL, Group A

Group games: vs. Brazil (9:30 p.m. ET June 14), vs. Venezuela (9:30 p.m. ET June 18), vs. Peru (4 p.m. ET June 22)

FIFA rank: 3
SPI chances of winning: 65.78 percent

Why they’ll go far: As tournament hosts, there is no chance of Brazil using the 2019 Copa to experiment. They have to win the trophy, as they did on all four previous occasions they staged the event. Coach Tite, then, is not holding back. He is going with the best of what is available to him.

There will be plenty of experience; midfielder Fernandinho and right-back Dani Alves have been recalled, as much for their dressing room wisdom as for their many virtues on the pitch. Willian has been called in to replace the injured Neymar, and there is no room for the likes of Lucas Moura or Vinicius Junior. The emergence since the World Cup of Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta gives the side extra options in the final third.

Why they won’t: The survivors of the 2014 World Cup campaign need no reminding that home advantage can turn into a handicap. Playing in front of their own expectant and volatile fans brings plenty of pressure.

This team is still finding their way. Tite confessed that selecting this squad was harder than naming his World Cup 23. A year ago, Brazil cruised through qualifying to Russia, but now, there are a few uncertainties. Post-World Cup performances have been disappointing, with Tite aware that he has yet to find the right blend. This is especially true in the centre-forward position. Since the World Cup, Firmino has been first-choice, but Brazil have so far been unable to knit his attributes into a team pattern, and much needed training time has been hit by Liverpool’s winning run to the final of the Champions League.

Player to watch: Gabriel Jesus

Best XI (4-1-4-1): Alisson; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago SilvaFilipe Luis; Casemiro; Richarlison, Arthur, Fernandinho, Coutinho; Gabriel Jesus

 

CHILE, Group C

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 15
SPI chances of winning: 2.97 percent

Why they’ll go far: After 99 years of waiting, Chile finally won the Copa on home ground in 2015. A year later another triumph, this time without home advantage, probably rates as the greatest moment in the history of the national team. All of this means that the class of 2019 will be highly motivated; they go into the tournament as defending champions and will fight hard to retain their crown.

Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda has pedigree — in the Copa Libertadores, in the World Cup and in youth development — making him a qualified name to oversee this next stage in the team’s development. In little more than a year in charge, his results have been mixed, but he has been working hard to find a blend and might have hit on something in March, when he tried a back-three formation in a friendly against the U.S.

Why they won’t: Almost all of Chile’s golden generation came through the 2007 Under-20 side. They have all aged together and ran out of collective steam in the tail end of the Russia 2018 qualifiers. The big question — a problem for all of the lesser South American nations through the years — is how to replace them. There is a lack of top-quality talent coming through, and Chilean clubs are performing poorly in continental competitions.

Player to watch: Alexis Sanchez

Best XI (3-5-2): Gabriel AriasGary MedelGonzalo JaraGuillermo MaripanMauricio IslaArturo VidalEsteban PavezCharles Aranguiz, Oscar Opazo; Alexis Sanchez, Nicolas Castillo

 

COLOMBIA, Group B

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 12
SPI chances of winning: 6.56 percent

Why they’ll go far: With a sizable population and a football-crazy fanbase, Colombia are a long-term bet to one day add their name to the list of World Cup winners. Having qualified for and occasionally lit up the past two tournaments, they can claim to be moving in the right direction, and with Portugal’s Carlos Queiroz, they have a coach with global pedigree and massive experience. He has already proven his capacity to adapt his methods to the players at his disposal.It will be fascinating indeed to see what he makes of the current Colombian squad, filled as it is with players of technical and physical prowess. It is also a squad that, after two World Cups, has lost any inferiority complex. They should enjoy the support of Colombia’s traveling army, such a feature of international tournaments since the 2011 Copa in Argentina.

Why they won’t: For all his experience, Queiroz has never worked in South America before. There is an obvious danger, then, that he will still be finding his feet in the Copa and that the tournament will come a little too early for his team to be anywhere near their best.There is also a worrying dependence on a number of key individuals. The disappointing nature of last year’s World Cup elimination highlighted the importance of James Rodriguez, and there is a lack of top-class cover for keeper David Ospina, himself not always the most reliable last line of defence. Playmaker Juan Fernando Quintero, so impishly brilliant in Russia, will miss out through injury.

Player to watch: James Rodriguez

Best XI (4-4-2): David Ospina; Santiago AriasYerry MinaDavinson SanchezCristian BorjaWilmar BarriosMateus UribeJuan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez; Duvan ZapataRadamel Falcao

 

ECUADOR, Group C

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 59
SPI chances of winning: 1.1 percent

Why they’ll go far: Hernan Dario Gomez was not a universally popular choice to take over as national team coach, but the man has undoubted pedigree. From Colombia in 1990 to Panama last year, he is dripping with World Cup experience, which includes taking Ecuador to their tournament debut some 17 years ago. He returns to an Ecuador side that has developed some of the characteristics that he encouraged: They are an athletic, physically imposing side that will seek to close the game down through the middle and launch quick and powerful breaks down the flanks.When it works — as it did in November’s 2-0 win away to Peru — Ecuador can be an impressive sight. Gomez seems to have made some progress in tightening up a defensive unit that fell to pieces in the closing stages of the Russia 2018 qualifiers.

Why they won’t: In his previous spell in charge, Gomez confessed that he did not take the Copas of 2001 and 2004 particularly seriously — he has continually played down the importance of this year’s tournament. No one, he says in his defence, stops him in the street to ask about the Copa America. Qatar 2022 is the big subject. And so he makes no secret of his priority — World Cup qualification — or the fact that he believes his team will not be fully prepared until next year.

Moreover, there is a lack of outstanding quality, with some of the players from the 2014 World Cup now aging and in decline. There is a worrying dependence on Enner Valencia for goals. Gomez will have half an eye on the Under-20 World Cup, in which Ecuador are thriving as reigning South American champions, in the hope that such potential can soon break through.

Player to watch: Enner Valencia

Best XI (4-5-1): Alexander Dominguez; Pedro Pablo Velasco, Gabriel AchilierRobert ArboledaBeder CaicedoCarlos GruezoAntonio ValenciaJefferson Orejuela, Jhegson Mendez, Ayrton Preciado; Enner Valencia

 

JAPAN, Group C

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 26
SPI chances of winning: 0.82 percent

Why they’ll go far: They’re fundamentally tough to break down. The backline might be young but looks solid without the ball and confident with it. This tournament also comes at a perfect time. Just as Qatar want to toughen up ahead of 2022, Japan are looking toward the Tokyo Olympics next summer. It’s no surprise, then, that 18 out of the 23 are 22 years of age or under. Nobody at home expects or demands success in the Copa; it’s an important staging post in a long-term preparation plan, which should give the players the freedom to express themselves.There is some experience in the shape of goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima in goal, Gaku Shibasaki in the middle and Shinji Okazaki in attack, but the focus will not be on these French, Spanish and English-based stars, as there is talent elsewhere. Takefusa Kubo has just turned 18 and is eligible to return to Barcelona, but Real Madrid and PSG are interested in the midfielder’s silky skills. He has the confidence to shine in South America, and then there is Shoya Nakajima. All in Japan know that the 24-year-old can make the team tick going forward — he was signed by a Qatari club for €35 million in February — but now is the time to show on a wider stage.

Why they won’t: There is a worry about where the goals will come from. Okazaki has a fine international goalscoring record, but if he struggles in South America, it’s asking a lot for the likes of Daizen Maeda and Ayase Ueda (the latter still a university student) to make the step up.

Take out the sprinkling of veterans, and there’s zero senior international tournament experience in the squad, which means they’re heading into the unknown. Finally, Japan have a poor record against South American opposition in competitive games, losing all four World Cup meetings before last June, when an early sending off and penalty against Colombia led to that long-awaited win.

Player to watch: Gaku Shibasaki

Best XI (4-2-3-1): Eji Kawashima; Tomoki IwataTakehiro TomiyasuYuta NakayamaDaiki SugiokaKo Itakura, Gaku Shibasaki; Takefusa Kubo, Shoya Nakashima, Tatsuya Ito; Shinji Okazaki

 

PARAGUAY, Group B

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 36
SPI chances of winning: 0.86 percent

Why they’ll go far: In this year’s Copa Libertadores, all three Paraguayan clubs topped their groups, often finishing ahead of rivals with far greater financial resources. There is a clear lesson here: Never underestimate the Paraguayans. Their teams have an innate ability to dig deep, to add up to more than the sum of their parts.Replacing the generation that reached the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal has not proven easy, but on paper, at least, the current group has the potential to form the strongest team since then. They will come to Brazil in the hope of setting out on the right foot on the road to Qatar 2022.Why they won’t: After Colombia’s Juan Carlos Osorio lasted just one game in charge, former Argentina centre-back Eduardo Berizzo has come in to coach the side. He comes well qualified, but there are two problems. The first is he has only just taken over. The other potential problem is Berizzo’s idea of play. He wants his team to defend high up the field and take the initiative in the game. This is alien to the traditional Paraguayan style of heroic deep defence. The difficulties of implanting a new style and mentality were apparent in March, when both times the team was poor and half-hearted in the first half. It’s also still not apparent where his side’s goal threat will come from.

Player to watch: Miguel Almiron

Best XI (4-2-3-1): Junior Fernandez; Bruno ValdezFabian BalbuenaGustavo GomezSantiago ArzamendiaRichard OrtizMatias RojasDerlis Gonzalez, Juan Rodrigo Rojas, Miguel Almiron; Federico Santander

 

PERU, Group A

Group games: vs. Brazil (9:30 p.m. ET June 14), vs. Venezuela (9:30 p.m. ET June 18), vs. Peru (4 p.m. ET June 22)

FIFA rank: 21
SPI odds of winning: 1.14 percent

Why they’ll go far: Peru are essentially taking to Brazil the same squad that went to Russia last year, ending a 36-year World Cup drought. This should certainly be a positive. With few exceptions, the squad is a young one, full of players who have yet to hit their peaks. It was fascinating to watch them grow together, picking up confidence under the calming influence of Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca. They made massive strides toward the end of the 2018 qualifiers, and despite group-phase elimination in Russia, they gave eventual champions France a tough game and could fly home with heads held high — plus the knowledge of being able to write more chapters together.Now, then, they enter the era of consolidation, the time when they show that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years. Centre-forward Paolo Guerrero is back and reinvigorated after his harsh drugs ban, and Peru should be in a much better state of preparation than some of their opponents and so are entitled to aim high in Brazil.

Why they won’t: Coach Gareca might well be disappointed by the lack of renewal in his squad. It’s good that he can keep his players together, but a little more competition for places would be no bad thing. Domestic Peruvian football, though, is not throwing up a glut of quality. There is always the danger of complacency setting in.Results since the World Cup also raise a question. It is always unwise to read too much into friendlies, but their lack of consistency, though, is striking. Are his men mentally strong enough to achieve good results on a regular basis? Has their 4-2-3-1 formation become too predictable?

Player to watch: Yoshimar Yotun

Best XI (4-2-3-1): Pedro GalleseLuis AdvinculaMiguel AraujoAnderson SantamariaMiguel TraucoRenato Tapia, Yoshimar Yotun; Andre CarrilloChristian CuevaEdison Flores; Paolo Guerrero

 

QATAR, Group B

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 55
SPI chances of winning: 0.12 percent

Why they’ll go far: Qatar are on a roll, are full of confidence and have nothing to lose. Wins over Switzerland and Ecuador (and a draw with Iceland) in 2018 suggested that there was something happening, but then the Maroons took the Asian Cup by storm in January, lifting the trophy by scoring 19 goals and conceding once. Such form means that the opener against Paraguay is winnable and then anything can happen. This is a national team that feels like a club, and this could be Qatar’s biggest strength, coupled with the possibility that they will be underestimated.They also play an appealing style. Their counterattack was too good for the likes of South Korea and Japan earlier this year, and they displayed a ruthlessness in front of goal that has been all too rare in Asian football over the years. Almoez Ali scored a tournament record of nine goals, a tally that was supported in some style by the relentless assists from Akram Afif. These youngsters, two of 10 in the squad who are 22 or under, will relish this chance to show how good they really are.

Why they won’t: It is one thing to win the Asian tournament in Abu Dhabi, a 45-minute flight from Doha, but competing in Brazil is completely different. Qatar could not have moved further out of their comfort zone if they had tried, even if that is the point of participating for a team that craves tournament football. Qatar have not traditionally travelled that well and have little experience playing teams from South America and even less actually playing there.The entire squad is based in the Qatar league, one of the better tournaments in the Middle East but one that lacks intensity and pressure. South America could be a real shock to the system. Equally, it remains to be seen how that system functions against the likes of Messi. In the UAE, Korea and Japan were frustrated by a team they expected to beat and lacked a plan B when the first was not working. The likes of Argentina and Colombia are likely to be a little more savvy. Qatari hands will be full with the conditions, the physical challenge and the skills of the opposition.

Player to watch: Almoez Ali

Best XI (5-3-2): Saad Al Sheeb; Ro-Ro, Bassam Al-Rawi, Tarek Salman, Assim Madibo, Abdelkarim Hassan; Hassan Al-Haydos, Boualem Khouki, Abdulaziz Hatem; Almoez Ali, Akram Afif

 

URUGUAY, Group C

Group games: vs. Colombia (7 p.m. ET June 15), vs. Paraguay (9:30 p.m. ET June 19), vs. Qatar (4 p.m. ET June 23)

FIFA rank: 6
SPI chances of winning: 5.92 percent

Why they’ll go far: Statistically the best South American side in last year’s World Cup, Uruguay progress with a serenity and a promise that have enthused coach Oscar Washington Tabarez, even at the age of 72, to extend a spell in charge that stretches back to the start of 2006. At the heart of the Tabarez project has been the use of the youth sides, and especially the Under-20s, to prepare the next generation.

In the run-up to Russia, Uruguay freshened up their lineup with a new crop of talented midfielders who changed the characteristics of the team. Instead of relying on a combination of resilience and quick breaks, the newcomers added the possibility of controlling possession and dictating the tempo of the game. A year on, the likes of Rodrigo BentancurLucas Torreira and Federico Valverdeare older, wiser and presumably better, and this offers real hope that Uruguay will be contending for titles.

Why they won’t: Tabarez has been able to count on a handful of stalwarts, and some genuinely world-class players have put in more than a decade of service. But on the evidence of the past club season, time could be catching up with them. Luis Suarez appears to have lost some of his pace, his strike partner Edinson Cavani has run into injuries, and captain and centre-back Diego Godinis looking vulnerable.

Youngsters are also coming through, but the process of transition — substituting some of the best players in the history of the Uruguayan national team — will be a delicate affair.

Player to watch: Luis Suarez

Best XI (4-4-2): Fernando MusleraMartin Caceres, Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Godin, Diego Laxalt; Rodrigo Bentancur, Lucas Torreira, Matias VecinoNicolas Lodeiro; Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez

 

VENEZUELA, Group A

Group games: vs. Brazil (9:30 p.m. ET June 14), vs. Venezuela (9:30 p.m. ET June 18), vs. Peru (4 p.m. ET June 22)

FIFA rank: 29
SPI chances of winning: 0.71 percent

Why they’ll go far: The only South American side never to have played in a World Cup, Venezuela are confident that the road to making their debut in Qatar will start in Brazil this summer. They have certainly been moving in the right direction, as highlighted by the comprehensive 3-1 win over Argentina in March.

Coach Rafael Dudamel now has a fascinating blend; some of the youngsters who reached the final of the 2017 Under-20 World Cup have come through well, such as excellent goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez, and are forming a team with more established stars such as midfield stalwart Tomas Rincon and fearsome centre-forward Salomon Rondon. They attack with pace down the flanks, and Dudamel has tried to make a point of tightening up the defence — the weak part of the side in the last qualification campaign — with the addition of more pace at the back.

Why they won’t: Venezuela are moving into uncharted waters. How will they cope with the heightened expectations brought about by their progress? They had a brief flirtation with such a situation toward the start of the decade; a win over Argentina in the early stages of Brazil 2014 qualifiers set off hopes that Venezuela might be on the verge of the breakthrough, which would soon be dashed, as the team were unable to score enough goals to keep them in the hunt.They should be much better prepared now, though Dudamel is concerned by his side’s over-dependence on the counterattack. Against opponents less open to the counter, can Venezuela dictate the tempo of the game with controlled possession in midfield?

Player to watch: Salomon Rondon

Best XI (4-3-3): Wuilker Farinez; Roberto RosalesYordan OsorioMikel VillanuevaLuis Mago; Tomas Rincon; Jhon MurilloYangel HerreraJunior MorenoDarwin Machis; Salomon Rondon

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN LOOKS TO FURTHER UNDEFEATED STREAK VS. LOUDOUN UNITED FC

By IndyEleven.com, 06/13/19, 8:00PM EDT   The Boys in Blue take to the road to face Loudoun United FC in a series first match-up

Indy Eleven Gameday Preview
Indy Eleven at Loudon United FC – #LDNvIND    Saturday, June 15, 2019 – 7:30 P.M. ET    Audi Field  |  Washington, D.C.

Local/National TV: N/A

SETTING THE TABLE:

LAST TIME OUT

Indy Eleven 3:0 Memphis 901 FC | Saturday, June 8

Indy Eleven extended its undefeated streak to six after defeating Eastern Conference expansion side Memphis 901 FC 3-0 on the road last Saturday. A first-half goal from forward Thomas Enevoldsen and second-half heroics from midfielders Kim Do-heon and Tyler Pasher handed the Boys in Blue their first victory on the road since April 20. Indiana’s Team also kept its seventh clean sheet of the season following Memphis’ scoreless performance.

#MEMvIND:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats

Loudoun United FC 1:2 Louisville City FC | Saturday, May 22

Loudoun United FC fell to defending USL Championship champions Louisville City FC 2-1 on the road last weekend. Loudoun forward Griffin Yow’s 49th minute strike wasn’t enough to overcome the two first-half goals Louisville put past the visiting side. The goal was Yow’s third in five appearances for the club, trailing only Kyle Murphy by one goal.

#LOUvLDN:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats

#LDNVIND STORYLINES

  • Saturday night’s fixture between Indy Eleven and Loudoun United FC will be the first meeting between the two teams.
  • Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jordan Farr earned his first USL Championship minutes last Saturday at Memphis, replacing Evan Newton in the 72nd minute.
  • The Boys in Blue are undefeated in their last six matches (GF: 6/ GA: 1), claiming 12 out of 18 points with five clean sheets.
  • Indy hasn’t conceded a goal on the road in the last 110 minutes of USL Championship play since New York Red Bulls II’s Tom Barlow scored in the 69th minute on April 28.
  • Last Saturday’s 3-0 win at Memphis is the fourth time that Indy Eleven have recorded three goals during a match in 2019, all of which have resulted in wins on the road.
  • The Boys in Blue currently have a 4W-2L-0D record on the road, having scored 14 goals and conceded seven.
  • Indy forward Dane Kelly played for Loudoun United FC’s Major League Soccer affiliate D.C. United in 2018, making just one regular season appearance for the club.
  • Loudoun defender Peabo Doue has faced Indy multiple times since 2017, having played for Jacksonville Armada (2017; NASL) and North Carolina FC (2018).
  • Forward Andrew Lubahn is no stranger to facing Indiana’s Team, having faced the Boys in Blue in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup with Louisville City FC, five times in 2017 with San Francisco Deltas (NASL), and three times in last season with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH | MF KENNEY WALKER

After spending a short stint on Indy Eleven’s injury list, Kenney Walker is back and better than ever. The 30-year-old has become quite the playmaker for the Boys in Blue, as he leads his teammates in assists (4) and is currently tied for second most in Eastern Conference. The midfielder has created 12 scoring opportunities so far this season, which equates to an average of one assist out of every key pass.Just as he’s found his teammates in scoring positions, Walker has also begun to find the back of the net. The Wickliffe, Ohio native opened his scoring account with a long distance screamer that sparked the comeback in Indy’s 2-1 win against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on June 1.

LOUDOUN UNITED FC PLAYER TO WATCH | MF CONNOR PRESLEY

Major League Soccer FC Dallas youth academy product Connor Presley has started 10 of Loudoun United FC’s 11 matches played through the start of the season, subbing off twice and playing a total of 863 minutes for the expansion side so far. In that time, the Austin, Texas native has converted two goals out of the seven shots he’s taken and earned USL Championship’s Goal of the Month award in May.Presley has proven that his presence can be felt no matter where he’s at on the pitch. As of now, the 20-year-old leads his team in tackles (25), tackles won (17), duels (144) and duels won (53). Though the midfielder’s passing accuracy sits at a touch over 71 percent, he’s played a team-high 12 key passes and tallied a single assist.

MATCHUP TO MARK | INDY FW THOMAS ENEVOLDSEN VS. LOUDOUN FW GRIFFIN YOW

Saturday night’s fixture at Audi Field, home of Loudoun’s MLS affiliate D.C. United, will feature veteran striker Enevoldsen squaring off against United’s rookie Griffin Yow.Enevoldsen added goal #3 to his Indy Eleven scoring account last Saturday at Memphis 901 FC after netting the first of three for Indy in the 31st minute. The 31-year-old curled his shot around Memphis’ ‘keeper and off the far post following a one-on-one duel against 901 FC defender Jacob Hauser-Ramsey. In addition to scoring, the Danish striker is currently tied with teammate Ayoze for the most chances created with 22 on the season.Much like Enevoldsen, Yow netted his third goal of the season and Loudoun’s lone goal in last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Louisville City FC. The 16-year-old cut around LCFC’s Alexis Souahy before rocketing the ball into the net from outside the 18-yard-box, earning a Goal of the Week nomination. In just 380 minutes of play, the D.C. United Homegrown loanee is now Loudoun’s second highest goal scorer, trailing forward Kyle Murphy by one, and has managed to find the back of the net every 126 minutes on average. Indy Eleven will continue its away swing this Saturday in the team’s first-ever meeting against expansion side Loudoun United FC. Kickoff for the contest at Audi Stadium is set for 7:00 p.m., and the match will be streamed live online via ESPN+.

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