11/20/20 US Pounds Panama 6-2, MLS Playoffs Start today, US Ladies Fri Nov 27, UCL returns Tues/Wed

USA Youngsters Score 6 in Win Over Panama

So maybe the young #9s are not so bad after all?  Lets see – Gregg FINALLY Plays the 2 kid # 9s and they actually score 4 goals?  Imagine that Gregg – forwards scoring goals playing the #9 spot.  Sometimes the coaching ineptitude astounds me.  That being said it was nice to see our young 20 year old #9s actually score goals up front.  Both of them stuck their noses in – played high and were in the correct spot. Now if only Greg had played one of them at least a half vs Wales?  Oh well – better late than never.  Again the US looked ok on Monday vs a very overmanned Panama team with a bad GK.  The first 45 minutes we looked really good – with 70+ percent possession and a solid 3-1 lead with 2 goals from 20 year old forward Gioacchini scoring 2 on GK drop and a beautifully hard fought header. Soto checked in around 70 minutes in and added another header two headers off good crosses to give our #9 forwards slot 4 goals on the night. Overall it was 6-2 as Reyna scored a beauty off a free kick right outside the box and Letgett headed another from his traditional mid spot. Overall another solid performance with Dest moved the the left back this time.  He was still our best outside back but I thought Cannon was better on the right than Robinson was on the left in the first game.  Again the energy in the middle with Adams at the 6 and McKinney at the 8 is electric.  I like the 18 year-old Englishman Yunus Musa in the middle – man he and Adams and Reyna and Dest had some really nice combinations.  Musah – unlike most of our mids in the past actually takes the ball and ATTACKS.  Much like Pulisic – he runs at defenders and holds the ball really well in transition as he moves it forward.  If we can convince Musah to play for the US instead of England – he could really make a difference in 2022.  I thought overall the offense was a little stronger today – with a real #9 playing at the forward spot things were much, much better.  Soto and Gioacchini looked good up front – I missed not having Sargent up front but the 2 20 year-olds looked great on Monday.  I thought the defense was a little weaker tonight – Ream is not Brooks and Miazga was good but not great.  The first goal was a miscommunication between the 2 middle backs. Again this was Panama not Wales – but still 6 goals with young 20 year old forwards up front scoring 4 of them is mighty exciting.  Controlling 60+% of the game possession again – again is not a normal US approach.  The working the ball out of the back was almost flawless Monday as well.  Overall a solid win for Gregg’s US Team and reason to be really excited with our young US team moving forward. Looking forward to seeing the MLS’ers in a December friendly at some point. 

MLS Playoffs Starts Tonight

The MLS Playoffs get underway Friday with the Play in games on FS1 at 6:30 pm as New England takes on Montreal and Henry followed by the battle of Expansion Teams Nashville vs Inter Miami on ESPN at 9 pm.  Sunday we get Sporting KC vs San Jose at 4 pm on FS1, while Colorado travels to Minn United at 7:30 pm on ESPN, followed by the Portland Timbers hosting Dallas and former Carmel High Star defender Matt Hedges at 10 pm on ESPN. Sat  if you have Unimas or TUDN you can watch Orlando City hosting NYCFC at 12 noon and the Columbus Crew vs the NY Red Bulls at 3 pm.  I don’t think they are ESPN+ but I sure hope so.  Here’s the complete bracket.  While Sporting KC has the top spot in the west I like one of my favorite squads in the West either #2 and defending Champs Seattle or #3 seed and MLS bubble champ Portland to come out of the West.  While in the East – it’s a toss-up man.  Philly has gone from whipping boy to the tops in the league and Shield Holders with young home grown players, while Toronto is of course still Toronto at #2.  I would love to see 3 seed Columbus (closest to us) or the amazing Orlando the 4 seed with Nani who has worked wonders in just one year under the guy who should have been coach of the year Oscar Pareja.  Looking for a team to root for – here’s a newcomers bandwagon guide.

What to Watch in League Play This Weekend

The EPL has some big games this weekend actually on normal TV – Saturday NBC actually has a good game with #2 Tottenham playing Man City at 12:30 (of course same time as my Gators ☹), right after former top slot  now 6th place Aston Villa host Brighton at 10 am on NBCSN.  Sunday we get Liverpool hosting Leicester City at 2:15 pm on NBCSN, right after Arsenal traveling to Leeds United at 11:30 am.  My Fulham now out of the relegation zone wakes us up at 7 am vs Everton on the Peacock, while Chelsea does the same vs New Castle on Sat.  sans Pulisic who is still injured.  La Liga has Altetico Madrid hosting Barcelona at 3 pm Sat on beIN Sports – unfortunately Suerez the biter will not be there for Leti (covid).   In Germany US 17 yo Gio Reyna and Dortmund travel to Berlin to face Hertha Berlin and American teammate John Brooks Sunday at 2:30 pm on ESPN+.   

Champions League viewership up nearly 40 percent – Returns Tues/Wed

Through three matchdays, coverage of the UEFA Champions League has averaged 432,000 viewers across UniMas and Galavision — up 39% from last year. In particular, UniMas is up 35% (to 372K) and Galavision is up 100% (to 60,000).This year’s competition has already included two of the three most-watched UCL group stage matches on record, with Juventus-Barcelona on October 28 ranking first (757K) and Tuesday’s Real Madrid-Inter Milan match third (561K).  No idea on CBS SportsNetwork or CBS all access as they don’t do Neilsen ratings.  But it appears folks in the US are at least watching in Spanish for sure.  Champions League match-day 4 is next week with the big games Tuesday being US players Gio Reyna for Dortmund hosting Club Brugge and GK Horvath on TUDN at 3 pm, while PSG hosts American Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig with the top spot in the group on the line right behind Man United.  Wed’s top game features Inter Milan hosting Real Madrid on TUDN at 3 pm in a loser might be out in group C game. Salzburg and their American coach will be looking for a lifeline vs defending champs Bayern Munich and US defender Chris Richards at 3 pm on TUDN and of course all the games on CBS All Access and the CBS Sportsnetwork (check your listings you might have it) Goalazo show –goals from each game jumparound show.   Full Standings thru 3 matches here.

USA Women Face Netherlands Fri Nov 27 12:30 on ESPN

The World Champs will travel to face the team they beat to win the last world cup in their first competitive match since the She Believe’s Cup back in March. Returning to the fold is Forward Alex Morgan back from having a baby and now playing in Tottenham.  The full roster is here – of course missing are Rapino, Pugh, and Carli Lloyd still recovering from injuries and Horan who has been diagnosed with Covid.  Will be interesting to see how coach works in the newcomers with the old guard next week.  A Good Friday after Thanksgiving Sitdown at 12:30 on ESPN – along with football!   I want to wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving ! The OBC.

US Ladies Roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash)

DEFENDERS (8):  Alanna Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Sam Mewis (Manchester City), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Jaelin Howell (Florida State), Catarina Macario (Stanford)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Tottenham), Christen Press (Manchester United), Tobin Heath (Manchester United), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Nov 21 

7:30 am Peacock                 New castle vs Chelsea  

9:30 am ESPN+               Bayern (Richards) vs Werder Bremen (Sergent)

10 am beIN Sport                 Villareal vs  Real Madrid   

10 am NBCSN                      Aston Villa vs Brighton

12 noon TUDN               Orlando City vs NYCFC MLS Playoffs

 12:30 pm NBC                 Spurs vs Man City 

12:30 pm  ESppn+            Frankfort vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

2:30 pm EPSN+                       Hertha Berlin (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm beiN Sport               Atlletico Madrid vs Barcelona  

3 pm unimas/TUDN         Columbus vs RBNY MLS Playoffs

Sun, Nov 22 

7 am Peacock                      Fulham (Ream, Robinson) vs Everton  

9 am NBCSN                        Leicester City vs Wolves

9 am ESPN+                         Torino vs Inter

10:15 am beIN sport             Real Sociadad vs Granada (Sp)

11:30 am NBCSN                               Leeds United s Arsenal

2:15 pm NBCSN                      Liverpool vs Leicester  

2:45 pm                       Napoli vs AC Milan (Zlattan)

4 pm FS1                            Sporting KC vs San Jose  MLS Playoffs

7:30 pm ESPN                   Minn United vs Colorado  MLS Playoffs

10 pm ESPN                      Portland vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) MLS Playoffs

Mon, Nov 23

12:30 pm NBCSN                              Burnley s Cyrstal Palace

3 pm NBCSN                                     Wolverhampton vs Southampton

Champions League Tues/Wed Matchday 4

Friday, Nov 27

12:30 pm ESPN2         Netherlands vs USA Women

USA MEN

Gioacchini, Soto offer encouragement in USMNT’s striking stocks  Jeff Carlisle  ESPNFC

USMNT giving fans reasons to feel good Leander Schaerlaeckens »
USMNT surpasses goals with 6-2 win over Panama
WATCH: Post-match analysis of USMNT’s 6-2 defeat of Panama
Breakdown of USMNT players in Wales, Panama friendlies

USA vs. Panama, 2020 Friendly: Community player ratings
Player ratings: USMNT v Panama

Three things we learned from USMNT – Panama

US starts all Europe-based lineup vs. Panama, 1st since 2009
• Reyna scores first U.S. goal in Panama rout

What year is it? USMNT hopeful about future Leander Schaerlaeckens »   11/13/20

 USWNT

USWNT face Netherlands in WC final repeat
USWNT Reveals Squad vs. Netherlands; Morgan Returns –BY AVI CREDITOR
Andonovski names USWNT roster for Netherlands friendly

USWNT camp a culmination of Vlatko Andonovski’s year of adapting and planning

 

MLS PLAYOFFS

https://www.mlssoccer.com/mls-cup-playoffs/2020/bracket 

Armchair Analyst: Playoff teams by tiers  Doyle

Doyle: One worry for each playoff team

If your club’s season is over, there’s room on these bandwagons

Bruce Arena full of praise for Thierry Henry ahead of Revs-Impact matchup
LAFC confident heading into playoff rematch with Seattle Sounders despite rash of absences
The Union Way? Curtin on the philosophy behind Philly’s success
LAFC forward Diego Rossi named MLS young player of the year

Philadelphia’s Jim Curtin named MLS Coach of the Year

 WORLD

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney just bought a soccer team in Wales
‘Deadpool’ star Reynolds buys Wrexham

Bundesliga thoughts: Why Alaba needs a reality check, Bayern Still Kings    Derek Rae

 Sources: Prem fans back before Christmas
Liverpool’s Salah tests positive for virus again


After Germany’s 6-0 defeat to Spain, is it time for Joachim Low to go?
Gabriele Marcotti
How Germany were torn apart by Spain – and what it means for the future of a mighty nation

Spain inflict historic defeat on Germany to qualify for Nations League finals

How Belgium became No. 1 in the world: Lukaku, De Bruyne and Martinez tell their story

USMNT still has long road to the World Cup, but the foundation is worth celebrating

Leander SchaerlaeckensMon, November 16, 2020, 7:19 PM EST·4 min read

Your flying car is back from the mechanic and parked in the air garage that floats above your house. You’ve had your dinner capsule and the kids are in bed, after taking their UV baths. It’s time to relax, activate your brain streaming and enjoy some United States men’s national team action.The future is here.Was Monday’s 6-2 win over Panama — in, of course, Austria, because where else? — only a friendly played on ocean away from both nations at the tail-end of an international break wedged into an already-jammed club season? Yes. Sure.Was this Panama team every bit as dangerous as the Panamanian army? Well, since Panama doesn’t have a standing army, also yes, pretty much.

But 2020 has been a woeful year in every way. And if you’re a committed U.S. national team follower — or, worse, a devoted fan — this has been a very long cycle or two for you. You’ve been in the wilderness as the national team fell apart, missed a World Cup and lumbered along for years, mostly looking feckless and directionless. So you deserve this. We deserve this.Because there’s something to get excited about. There’s a lot to get excited about.A national team that is young, talented, competent and compelling and maybe even a tad cocky — but the good kind of cocky. The doing-tricks-on-the-ball-in-a-real-game kind of cocky.“I don’t even know — was it six or seven?” Reyna asked casually on a video conference after the game, wondering about the score. “I don’t even remember to be honest. Six, right? It was six.”There is an awfully long way to go until the Americans get back to a World Cup, let alone make a breakthrough there. Lots of obstacles remain; there is much growing and improving to be done. But there are glimmers. Glimmers and sparks. So many of them that they’re almost blinding.And in dark times, you have to celebrate the flickers of light. Besides, it was the USA’s the last game of the year anyway — a calendar year of just three games, thus undefeated! — the ideal time to draw sweeping and overly emotional conclusions about the team’s direction and future. Plenty of times, the Yanks have looked fetid in these November friendlies. Not this time. So let’s enjoy this.

Let’s enjoy that the starting lineup was, on average, only 22 years old — and aged significantly by the presence of 33-year-old captain-for-the-day Tim Ream. Let’s enjoy the already world-class status of RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams, Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna, FC Barcelona’s Sergino Dest and Juventus’ Weston McKennie, which they all confirmed once again against Panama. Let’s enjoy how good the team looked over this game and Thursday’s very credible 0-0 tie with Wales even without injured star Christian Pulisic.Let’s enjoy how the Americans came back with a seven-minute three-goal flurry in the first half on a Reyna free kick and two goals from Nicholas Gioacchini — a tap-in and an acrobatic header.Let’s not worry so much about the fact that Panama went ahead in the eighth minute when Jose Fajardo found too much room between Ream and Matt Miazga on a cross not closed down properly. Let’s not worry about McKennie deserving a red card on a rash challenge, which the presence of VAR would probably have meted out, unlike referee Harald Lechner.Let’s also not fret about the fact that the second half was much sloppier for the Americans, or that they gave away a cheap second goal to Fajardo when he sauntered through the U.S. back line to latch onto a loose ball and shank it past Zack Steffen.Instead, let’s remember how debutant Sebastian Soto scored the fourth on a strong header from the cross dispatched by fellow newcomer Richie Ledezma. Or how Sebastian Lletget bagged the fifth with a header that dinked in off the bottom of the near post. And how Soto got his second on yet another header — a sixth — in injury time. Or that it could have been seven, had Gioacchini not botched his penalty kick.“All we wanted to do from the beginning is get the fans on our side — it was an important step for us,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game of his team’s rapidly improving watchability. “That’s how it should be.”We needed something to feel good about. And what we saw from this U.S. men’s national team in the past week is something to feel good about.Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist 

Nicholas Gioacchini, Sebastian Soto offer encouragement in USMNT’s striking stocks

7:28 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent  ESPNFC

The worth of a forward is often in the eye of the beholder. A 30-yard-blast counts as much as a 2-yard tap-in, even though the former is often what gets the hearts of fans beating faster.There is value in both kinds of goals — not to mention link play and pressing — but the U.S. men’s national team was grateful for the two short-range tallies from Nicholas Gioacchini and another pair from substitute Sebastian Soto in a 6-2 friendly win over Panama on Monday.Forward play — and really the lack of playing with one by virtue of using a false nine — was one of the main talking points following the 0-0 draw with Wales last Friday. The U.S. dominated possession but had little in the way of attacking thrust, especially in the box. Against a rebuilding Panama side, manager Gregg Berhalter decided to go with a more standard alignment, handing Gioacchini his first start. “You could tell he was a little bit apprehensive,” said Berhalter about Gioacchini. “My job was just to give him confidence and tell him that he’s good enough, and he showed it tonight.”The Caen forward didn’t get on the ball much, just 18 touches in his 77 minutes of work. But he was in the right spots when it mattered, pouncing on a rebound in 22nd minute to put the U.S. ahead for good 2-1, and then adding another four minutes later on a diving header following a slick buildup.”I had a week that I’ll never, ever, ever forget,” Gioacchini said afterward. But he was also already critiquing his own performance, which included a penalty that was saved by Panama goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera.

“My first impression I don’t think was a bad one,” he continued. “But I could have done way better for myself, been more available to the midfield even to the center-backs. In the box, I still had areas where I felt like I should have been five steps ahead of where you were, even two steps ahead. So, you know, it’s always something to review and to remember. But still, two goals is not easy for anyone.”The day was just as memorable for Soto, who came off the bench to score two headed goals. In the process, he showed off his mobility and knack for being in good spots.The play of both players hints that the depth at the forward position might be a bit deeper than originally thought, though context is needed. Mosquera looked very shaky on his international debut. It also seems unlikely that either forward will jump ahead of the likes of Josh SargentGyasi Zardes or Jozy Altidore. That said, the impression made by both players was a positive one.

“For me, it was a good performance by [Soto and Gioacchini],” Berhalter said. “But it’s important. When we talked last week about potentially the depth chart of the striker and forward position being limited, any chance you get, you need to take it, and these guys did a good job.”While the forwards delivered, the play of the team as a whole was a bit all over the place, filled with some sparkling play and also some teachable moments. That was just fine with Berhalter, who was pleased to see his young side be exposed to how a game against a CONCACAF opponent can play out.”It was a very difficult game, a very physical game — more physical than the Wales game,” said Berhalter. “We needed that. The guys needed it. We had some guys calling for fouls. These aren’t going to be fouls. You’ve got to play on.”The U.S. started the match almost asleep, lacking in defensive focus, only to be woken up by Jose Fajardo‘s eighth-minute header that gave Los Canaleros a shock 1-0 lead. The U.S. soon asserted control through its midfield, scoring three times in an eight minute span, with recent birthday boy Gio Reyna netting his first international goal courtesy of a free kick that was won by Yunus Musah.

In the second half, the U.S. then returned to sleep mode, as Panama ratcheted up its intensity and physical play. Weston McKennie, while excellent on the night, was lucky to stay on the field with a two-footed tackle on Panama’s Gaby Torres that drew only a yellow card. When Fajardo bagged his second of the night in the 79th minute with well-taken drive, there was a question of whether a team with plenty of debutantes on the field could see the game out. That they did, with Richie Ledezma assisting on both of Soto’s goal and Sebastian Lletget adding another.”That was the period I was most interested in,” said Berhalter. “I was really interested in seeing where we gonna buckle or could we hang in there. And not only did we hang in there, we pulled away at the end, scoring a number of goals, so I was pleased with the performance.”Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this international window was the play of the U.S. central midfield. Once again, Tyler Adams, McKennie, and Musah shined. The task now is to convince Musah to stick with the U.S. for the long term. The two recent performances don’t cap-tie him to the U.S., and England have made it clear they don’t intend to let Musah go without a fight. The U.S. have been able to strike first, however, and that at least gets Musah pondering his options.”I was really happy with, with Yunus’ performance, I’m really happy with him in camp. The guys really took to him well,” said Berhalter.”All I’ve ever said about players in his category is that all we want to do is create an environment for them that they want to be in, that they trust is a good environment for their development. And it seemed like that was the case for Yunus. It seems like he sees us as a pathway to continue to develop and play with a good, young group. But in the end, it’s going to be him and his family that decide.”Things are already looking up for the U.S. given how young players are beginning to establish themselves with their clubs. If Musah commits to the U.S., that feeling will only increase.

The USMNT’s Future Is Bright; Just How Bright Can it Be?

There’s clear reason for optimism surrounding a talented core that’s playing for elite clubs at a young age. To think about breaking the U.S. men’s national team’s glass ceiling, though, you must first understand how high it stands.  BRIAN STRAUSUPDATED:NOV 17, 2020  SI

There have been, by U.S. soccer’s historically modest standards, a couple close calls. In 2002, a men’s national team that probably was the best the country ever fielded outplayed Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal and was denied extra time by an unsympathetic referee. Eight years later in South Africa, the USA won its group and faced the most forgiving path to the semis it was ever going to get: Ghana and Uruguay. But the Americans fell to the Black Stars in the round of 16.That’s as close as the USA has come to contending at a modern World Cup. Now, consider how much further it has to go.Here’s a statistic to ponder. Let it provide some context for all the conversation, hype and footballing fantasies now taking root. Since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998, the eventual tournament champion has won an average of six matches. That’s six victories in one month. The U.S. men’s national team has won six World Cup games combined in the past 70 years. That’s six victories across 18 tournaments.Granted, five have come in the past eight World Cups. So that’s a relative hot streak. But still, the broad trends that somehow seem to govern World Cups suggest the USA isn’t close to contending. Its single knockout-stage win was 18 years ago against familiar foe Mexico, and since each subsequent round is logarithmically more difficult—barring a historic fluke—it’s pretty clear that at this point, the USA is a lot more likely to miss a World Cup altogether than challenge for the crown. And that fact was hammered home three years ago. In 1989, the U.S. program made its first big leap, qualifying for a World Cup for the first time in 40 years. It became a participant. To become a contender, it must make another big leap. For a couple decades now, the USA has been running in place. Group stage exits. Round-of-16 exits. Couva. A leap to the World Cup quarterfinals and beyond requires a historic disruption of that inertia. But there’s evidence that disruption is finally happening. Within the past year or so, young U.S. players are suddenly being signed by the sport’s biggest clubs. Christian Pulisic is at Chelsea. Weston McKennie is at Juventus. Tyler Adams is at RB Leipzig, a Champions League semifinalist. There are now two Americans at Barcelona, and more coming up at Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, PSV Eindhoven and more. This feels different. It is different.And so this new U.S. national team, the one that may redefine what’s possible for American soccer, took its first step into that new era over the past week. After a 10-month pandemic pause (or longer for many), during which the player pool evolved significantly, coach Gregg Berhalter gathered his squad of emerging stars for friendlies against Wales (a 0-0 draw) and Panama (a 6-2 win).For the coaches and players, it was a chance to spend time with each other, establish a bit of chemistry and start drilling down on Berhalter’s principles of play. The 24-man team initially included 10 uncapped players and 19 eligible for next summer’s U-23 Olympic qualifiers and finals. There was a lot of work to do, and not a ton of time. But during Zoom calls with the media, there were just as many questions about hype, potential and promise as there were about Wales and Panama. That’s what people want to read about. It’s what fans, still sore after the Couva catastrophe, want to revel in. The weight of hope and expectation now hangs over a U.S. team like never before, and Berhalter and his players found they’d have to manage that as much as they’d have to deal not only with the training sessions and games in front of them, but in simply getting to know each other.This game-changing team is still just finding its feet.“The hype in general comes from the outside—from the media, from the fans—and I think we’re not really playing for the expectations of other people. We’re playing for the expectations within our group, within our team, within our brotherhood that we have here,” McKennie said.“We have expectations. We have desires. And I think the most important thing is just to keep [all the young players] working, including myself,” the Juve midfielder continued. “It starts with us, and we have to kind of show that and let them know, ‘Hey, you haven’t made it yet. Day in and day out you have to bust your balls to play. You gotta bust your balls and you’re representing a whole country.’”Said defender Reggie Cannon, an FC Dallas product who lauded the level of competition he’s now getting at Portugal’s Boavista, “One thing I can say to the national team fans is be patient. … We have a lot of talented individuals obviously, and what’s going to make this team great is if we play for each other. And that’s something we’re figuring out.”Berhalter also endeavored to establish a reasonable benchmark. Unlike recent USMNT predecessors, he’s committed to the painstaking work of establishing both a coherent and consistent style of play, and an inclusive, uplifting team culture. Neither is easy, especially with so much new blood. The past week was a reminder of how much goes into laying those foundations.“One thing I’ve noticed especially when you’re working with new players or a group that’s just forming is, you go through different stages of team development,” Berhalter said. “With this group in particular, it is more of individuals looking for their position within the team, and we clearly want to move to more of a team-orientated standpoint as we get into [World Cup] qualifying.“It’s completely natural what’s happening now,” he added. “A guy wants to come into camp. He wants to make a good impression on the coaching staff. He wants to play really well, and he’s focused more on himself. As he gets more comfortable now, he’s focused more on his teammates. And we certainly want to get into that stage by qualifying because that’s going to be really important.”Qualifying is the first measuring stick. Before the USA can contend globally, it has to get back to dominating regionally. Next year will provide an ideal opportunity. Following the March friendly window, the USA will enter the four-team Concacaf Nations League finals in June. It’s a minor title, but success would whet the appetite. The Gold Cup starts in July, and then Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying octagonal finally gets underway in September.Berhalter said Monday that he’s unlikely to call in his contingent of European A-listers for both the Nations League and Gold Cup, meaning it’s one or the other, plus the March window, for those players between now and next September. Again, that’s not a lot of time.But the USA doesn’t have to win a World Cup next fall. It just has to beat the likes of Costa Rica and Honduras. And while Monday’s defensively-deficient Panamanian side may not have been the best litmus test, there clearly was progress made over the past week-plus, both from a coaching perspective and among the players. Berhalter saw some things and probably learned some things, while his charges appeared to be positive about being in camp and about playing with each other. Those are foundational building blocks. We saw Adams play as the lone defensive midfielder in Berhalter’s three-man midfield for the first and second time, quickly establishing himself as the guy who probably should man that role for the next decade. And we saw McKennie and dual-national Yunus Musah connect, cover ground and drive the ball forward in occasionally dominant fashion. If that dynamic was enough to convince Musah to commit his international future to the USA, then the camp will have been a smashing success.

But there was more. The USA defended and pressed well out of that 4-3-3 against Wales. In that match, despite the offensive stagnation, the young Americans never lost their defensive focus. And against Panama, despite going down early and then losing its grip on the game early in the second half, the U.S. recovered and put Panama in its place. Berhalter got a look at his team attacking with a false nine and with a more traditional striker, and saw how debutant Gio Reyna found (or didn’t find) space to contribute behind each. Depth at striker was a concern, with the absent Josh Sargent still unproven and Jozy Altidore aging. But Nicholas Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto—each 20 years old and with the senior squad for the first time—demonstrated some comfort in the penalty area and contributed two goals apiece. Further back, Berhalter had the opportunity to field Sergiño Dest at both right and left back, while testing a couple different center back pairings and getting Zack Steffen valuable minutes in net.There was plenty to digest. And that constitutes a good start on a long journey.“You can still see a lot of times we’ve only been together for a week. I think you also saw some really good things,” said Reyna, who turned 18 last Friday and scored his first U.S. goal on Monday. “Everybody’s been getting along very well off the field too. So I think on and off the field it’s just slowly bringing this group together where by the time qualifying comes, we’ll be ready to compete and [have] very good chemistry on and off the field.”That chemistry isn’t a given, considering they all come from different clubs in different leagues. Fans can swoon over the teams these men play for, but that doesn’t guarantee cohesion when they come together. Plenty of countries head to a World Cup with impressive rosters and then leave early because chemistry and humility are absent. The young Americans, however, carry a burden in common. Many are pioneers, in a sense—one of the first, if not the first, from their country to be counted on at their respective club. Rather than fuel a sense of ego or entitlement, it seems to have left them appreciating, supporting and challenging each other.“The best thing for us to do is to go to Europe and challenge yourself and get a taste of what real football is like, because I think that’s ultimately going to create so much challenge and so much unity within the team that everyone can experience this lifestyle and challenge each other for spots,” Cannon said. “I think that’s what makes teams great.”The chemistry is evident in interviews and on Instagram, and on the field as well. At times, this U.S. team was genuinely fun to watch. There was panache and confidence on the ball—the sort of flicks, quick touches and dexterity that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey used to show on their own, but that now several of these players can perform in combination—as well as the fluid, 360-degree awareness not too frequently seen among American men. “We all know that we like to play. We like to combine. We like to make those small touches and small passes, and I think whenever you get into that type of confidence that you can play with your guys and everything, then I think it just brings out the confidence in yourself,” McKennie said. “I think a lot of the guys felt the comfortability with the other players on the field and we enjoyed it, We had fun. … It’s a good stepping stone and I think it was a good start after not being together for a whole year.”The possibilities are intriguing. But one barrier must fall at a time. A team with good young players who enjoy working together is a start, but there’s so much further to go. While this U.S. squad has a few individuals scattered across some big clubs, the national teams it’s chasing–the elite–have dozens. They have depth that would tie Berhalter in knots. Here’s another stat to consider, courtesy of Transfermarkt: While the USA currently has three players valued at more than $20 million (Pulisic, McKennie and Dest), world champion France has 25 players valued that highly who have never even been called in to the senior national team. It’s night and day. There is such a long way to go.But you can’t get there without coming this far first. This improvisational camp, featuring two closed-door games and so many new faces, went as well as can be expected. And so a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single stepover.

Armchair Analyst: What we learned from the November US men’s national team camp

The first US men’s national team outings in nine-and-a-half months are officially in the books. The first of those outings, a scoreless draw at Wales, was good in that it highlighted a bunch of the things that Gregg Berhalter has been trying to instill:

  • The US were mostly good with the ball
  • The US controlled possession and, thus, the tempo of the game
  • A bunch of new, young players made their debuts
  • Catastrophic errors were avoided

It was also bad in that, you know, it was a scoreless draw vs. the Welsh B team, and it’s not like it was scoreless because the US were fluffing chances. They just didn’t turn that possession into much penetration. That’s been an ongoing issue against pretty good-to-excellent teams during Berhalter’s two years in charge now.The second game, Monday’s 6-2 rout of an overmatched Panama side, was both better and worse. Here’s the worse part:

  • They gave up two goals to an overmatched Panama side

This was probably the weakest Panama team in 20 years. Their golden generation — players like Blas Perez, Luis Tejada and Jaime Penedo — have aged out, and the new guys aren’t anywhere near as good, nor they play with the same type of urgency. They do not score a lot of goals, and it was kind of shocking to see them score two against the US. Neither Matt Miazga nor Tim Ream covered themselves in glory on the defensive side of the ball. I do not think we will see that combo again.

But it was also good in a lot of ways:

  • Drubbing a non-minnow Concacaf side 6-2 is objectively good
  • The patterns of play Berhalter has been trying to instill were present, effective, and often executed at pace
  • Many of the younger players looked more comfortable in their second cap than their first
  • Once Panama fought back a bit, the US woke up and killed them down the stretch

It is nice to see a young team score goals, but I’d argue it is even nicer to see them refuse to get Concacaf’d.

Here’s a bit more of what we learned from this camp:

It’s a 2-3-2-3

I wrote in my preview that the US seemed destined to go for a 3-2-2-3 in possession this cycle, with Tyler Adams (or Jackson Yueill, or Johnny Cardoso — who was good vs. Wales but struggled vs. Panama) dropping back to split the center backs and pushing the fullbacks up, then spraying. There was some of that, but it certainly was not the default look.Instead, Adams largely stayed central and a bit ahead of the center backs, whether it was Miazga and Ream on Monday or Miazga and John Brooks last week. The fullbacks both got forward, which did create the “2-3” shape up top once the wingers pinched in, but more of that came from combination play via central midfield and less of it via dimed diagonals. It is a real difference, though I’m not willing to say whether or not it’s a “significant” difference. I need to see more of it against better competition and in games with real stakes.My gut is that I like it. The second line of “3” with Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah just smothered almost every counter opportunity before they could even start. Their mobility and ability to work as a trio was perhaps the biggest revelation of the camp, and it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a full-court press from Berhalter & Co. to get Musah to commit to the US team.An attacking aspect of this set-up that didn’t really work is the fact that it, in theory, allows more freeom for either McKennie or Musah more freedom to make late-arriving runs into the box for pull-backs – which one one of the very best parts of McKennie’s game in particular. You can do that in a 3-2-2-3 (McKennie literally has done it from that set-up), but there’s one more moving piece if/when you take that risk, and little complications like that can become big issues if the shot is blocked or the cross cut out and a counter starts in the other direction.

Those pull-backs are going to be the lifeblood of this attack. Watch this clip and you’ll all see the goal:

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6210200317001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 Watch it again, but focus on Gio Reyna. After releasing the pass he actually slows his run and opens up for the pullback. He is using the defender’s anticipation of a hard, direct run against him, and understands where the space in the box is about to materialize because of the pattern of play.This is good soccer from him and the US. There were a lot of little moments like that against Panama, and while I will reiterate that this is a weak Panama team compared to the past two decades, this is the exact type of team you have to beat in order to make it to the World Cup and face the Belgiums and Brazils of the world.

There Will Be a Press

The US alternated between pressing out of a 4-4-2 diamond, which was more prevalent vs. Wales with Sebastian Lletget as a false 9, and a 4-3-3 with some of the same principles, as we saw against Panama.In either set-up the goal is the same: force the opposing goalkeeper to make tough choices and tougher passes in order to find pockets, or coax them into blasting it long and giving the 12-and-a-half combined feet of US center backs a bunch of aerials to dominate.The only other option is to clip a ball to the weak-side fullback along the touchline, which is something Panama’s Orlando Mosquera did time and again. That is a recipe for turnovers, as happened time and again.On the flip side, I think it’s pretty clear that the US need to get ready to be pressed more often. Wales basically let the US have possession in the first half, then caused real problems — and nearly a goal — with some fairly committed high pressing in the second half. Panama’s goals didn’t come from pressing, but they definitely rattled the young US side for good chunks of the second half with some energetic, front-foot defending. Brooks and Ream were generally outstanding playing out of it, as were Sergino Dest and Reggie Cannon. Adams and Johnny struggled a bit.So it goes with young players — even ones on Champions League/Copa Libertadores sides.

Be Excited About the Kids

Musah, who might’ve been the second-best US player vs. Wales behind only McKennie, largely overdelivered. McKennie, Adams and Dest looked like what they are — veterans of the Champions League, and $20 million (at least) players. Reggie Cannon is not going to be a $20 million player, but my guess is he’ll be close to a $10 million, mistake-free RB who occasionally makes match-winning plays thanks to his understanding of when to get forward and pin-point crossing.Tim Weah looked healthy-ish, if not necessarily sharp. Antonee Robinson struggled, and I’ll go ahead and admit I still don’t quite see it with him (the door is very open for Sam Vines, though I’ll go ahead and persist in my belief that Dest on the left with Cannon on the right will end up being our best bet even if Dest didn’t look great there vs. Panama). Konrad de la Fuente and Uly Llanez looked like what they are, which is to say teenagers who aren’t yet really ready for first-team minutes. Richie Ledezma mostly looked like that as well, though he obviously had a major say in the late onslaught vs. Panama.I think Johnny will be very good as long as he keeps getting minutes and, quite frankly, I liked his willingness to kick people. I am still high on Chris Richards, though I am not enamored of his club situation (I don’t think he’s going to regularly play CB for Bayern Munich any time soon).So much of the above can change so quickly over the course of a few short months. For Musah, McKennie, Adams, Cannon and Dest, it changed for the better and they are all on clear, upward trajectories. The hope is that most of the rest of the players from this camp can do the same, but nothing’s guaranteed.Still, just from a depth-building perspective, this camp should be considered a major win.Reyna is probably the highest-rated truly young player in the pool. He was dominant vs. Panama, if a bit sloppier than I expected him to be on the ball in midfield. He’s not easily or often taken off of it for Borussia Dortmund, but got it caught up in his feet a few times vs. Los Canaleros. The same vs. Wales. I am not particularly concerned about this long-term — international soccer is just different. He’ll figure that part out.

The real issue with Reyna is this one:

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6210211257001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 The Reyna we’ve seen at Dortmund over the past year makes that pass. The Reyna we saw for US youth teams at various age-groups often doesn’t. It is why so many teams functioned better once they got him out of the engine room.This was his first-ever cap, and he followed it up with a much better second outing. He’s getting real minutes for one of the 15 (or so) best teams in the world at age 17 (now 18). The failure to make this pass is not a five-alarm fire.But it is something to be aware of.Another potential issue that I came away from this camp thinking about: Reyna was much better on the left than on the right. Christian Pulisic is much better on the left than the right, and Jordan Morris is much better on the left than the right.I don’t think this is a five-alarm fire, either. But it’s something to be aware of.I am curious to see how Berhalter will fit his consensus most-talented players on the field and meld them into a high-functioning unit. I don’t think that’s entirely clear yet, even if the system itself, and how it’s supposed to function, is.

The Situation at Striker

Here’s what I tweeted after the Wales game, during which Lletget was miscast as a false 9.Berhalter did indeed stop with the false 9 stuff vs. Panama, and both Nicholas Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto made good cases for themselves. Gioacchini’s natural inclination to link play is such a nice foundational building block, but he seems to pair it with high-level mobility and a willingness to scrap in the box. Soto, obviously, just has a nose for goal.None of these guys — either those two, or Gyasi ZardesJozy Altidore, Josh Sargent, Daryl DikeJeremy Ebobisse or Ayo Akinola — need to become Robert Lewandowski to play a significant role in what has the potential to become an excellent attack (though I would not complain if one did, in fact, become Robert Lewandowski). They just need to be capable of executing those patterns of play at pace, to stay on their toes, and to put the ball in the net when the opportunity presents itself.Regardless, I do believe that one of these guys needs to start even if it means leaving a nominally more talented winger or attacking midfielder on the bench. Balance, and getting the talent on the field to function together, is more important than just putting as much talent as is possible out there.

I don’t know if there’s much else to take from these games beyond that. They were B Team, shake-the-rust-off friendlies, and they were largely fun and good even if there were bits of disappointment scattered in. There is a clear plan of attack — and of how to attack — and more young talent than the program’s ever had scattered throughout the roster.But the truth is that with 10 months between now and the start of World Cup qualifying, these games will be largely forgotten as the games that matter finally come around. It’s not a scoreless draw vs .Wales that’ll determine who’s on the field and in what role next September; it’s club situations and injuries and opportunity, as well as a jam-packed next summer of US games at every age-group (Johnny, Uly and Konrad with the U-20s? I’d like to see it!).We’ll know more by then. In the meantime, the past 180 minutes were pretty fun and pretty purposeful. That’s good enough for me, for now.

Takeaways from USMNT’s 6-2 thumping of Panama, featuring Gio Reyna’s first senior national team goal (video)

Doug McIntyreYahoo Sports•November 16, 2020

The second-youngest lineup in U.S. men’s national team history didn’t look the part for most of Monday’s 6-2 exhibition rout of CONCACAF rival Panama in Austria. Following last week’s impressive if anticlimactic scoreless friendly with Wales, the Americans started slow, conceding the opening goal to Los Canaleros just over seven minutes into the contest. The early blow brought the USMNT to life. “It was a wakeup call.” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said.Giovanni Reyna started the comeback off of a seeing-eye free kick, Nicholas Gioacchini scored twice in a four minute span in the first half and Sebastian Soto and Sebastian Lletget added goals in the second as Gregg Berhalter’s side secured a convincing victory against a team the U.S. will face during qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Here are three quick takeaways from Monday’s match:

Reyna makes his mark in his second U.S. appearance

Reyna’s much anticipated senior team debut was solid if unspectacular. But on Monday, he produced some of the end-product that has helped him emerge as one of the world’s top young talents with German titan Borussia Dortmund.Not only did his 18th-minute strike get the Americans back on level terms, it also showed off the newly-minted 18-year-old’s soccer brain, as Reyna sent his shot under Panama’s wall:

The goal made Reyna — the son of former USMNT captain Claudio Reyna and U.S. women’s team winger Danielle Egan — the third youngest scorer in program history. That it came in a dub mattered, tool.“We were all motivated today to get the win against a CONCACAF opponent,” Reyna said afterward, noting Los Canaleros physicality. “We got a little bit of a taste of what CONCACAF teams will be like against us.”It wasn’t a perfect showing; as much as Reyna was at the heart of many of the USA’s best moves at Wiener Neustadt Stadium, the normally tidy midfielder quite uncharacteristically got caught in possession on multiple occasions in the second half, before being replaced by the more defense-minded Johnny Cardoso at the hour mark.Still, in these last two games — which U.S. headliner Christian Pulisic missed because of a hamstring injury — Reyna showed, in flashes at least, why everyone is so excited about his future.

Gioacchini, Soto take advantage of opportunities up top

Even before 20-year-old Werder Bremen striker Josh Sargent was forced off the squad because of local COVID-19 restrictions in Germany, Berhalter’s 24-deep roster was painfully thin up top.With MLS options Jozy Altidore (injury) and Gyasi Zardes (playoff commitments) — probably No. 1 and 2 on the coach’s depth chart — also unavailable, LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget was deployed as a “false 9” in last week’s stalemate in Swansea, in which the visitors registered just one on-target shot.Berhalter promised Sunday that he would start an actual front runner against the Panamanians. Gioacchini made the most of his chance. “I feel like I have a lot to improve on [but] my first impression I don’t think was a bad one,” he said before being named Man of the Match. “Two goals is not easy for anyone.”The Kansas City native, 20, headed home his first off the rebound of a Uly Llanez shot following a sequence that started with Weston McKennie winning the ball in midfield and springing Reyna, who found Llanez on the right:McKennie also helped set up Gioacchini’s second by keeping the ball in play and crossing to defender Matt Miazga, who headed back across the face of goal. Gioacchini didn’t hesitate to stick his noggin into a dangerous spot to nod past keeper Orlando Mosquera:

Gioacchini, who plays for French second tier side Caen, could even have added a third and completed his hat trick, but Mosquera smothered his second-half penalty kick — a miss that made the things interesting when Jose Fajardo’s second pulled one back for Panama late on.But Soto restored the two-goal advantage six minutes into his debut. With the result beyond doubt, Lletget made it 5-2. Soto added the cherry with his second in stoppage time.For a team that needs all the finishing help it can get, Gioacchini’s and Soto’s performances had to have made an impression on Berhalter — one he’s not likely to forget in 2021.“It was really important for both of them. We’re really happy for both of them,” Berhalter said. “When we talked last week about the depth chart of the striker or the forward position being limited, any chance you get you have to take it, and these guys did a good job tonight.”

European-based Americans end difficult 2020 on a high

Monday’s win marked the final match of the year for most of the national team’s big guns, who will be busy with their European clubs if and when U.S. Soccer is able to schedule one final friendly next month outside of the international window — a game that would likely feature MLS players not involved in the domestic league’s Dec. 12 championship.Getting the two November games in at all during the coronavirus pandemic was a triumph in itself. Producing two solid displays, even if there were some defensive lapses on Monday, is an added bonus following all the challenges that this year has brought.“We were way too static against Wales,” Berhalter said. “And I think today the intention was to get behind the [back] line more. And that really helped the team, it really helped stretch Panama and gave us some space that we needed.“As we had to grind, and as the game got more difficult, that was what I was really interested in,” the coach added. “I’m really proud of that response as well. The subs who came in made a difference. Overall, it was a really good week.”

Breakdown of USMNT players in Wales, Panama friendlies

Nicholas Mendola  Mon, November 16, 2020, 7:16 PM EST·6 min read

The United States men’s national team played its first two matches in 10 months this week, showcasing youthful vigor and plenty of growth since Gregg Berhalter’s program development was stalled by the coronavirus pandemic.

[ USMNT – PANAMA: Three things | Player ratings ]

There were a lot of winners and few outright ‘losers’ — relatively speaking — from the scoreless draw against Wales and the blowout defeat of Panama. Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, and Zack Steffen were the lone players to go 90 minutes in both matches, while Giovanni Reyna, Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams, and Matt Miazga were the other four players to get two starts.

[ WATCH: Reyna’s gorgeous free kick, Gioacchini’s brace ]

Below is the full minute breakdown for the men of the USMNT camp. Who seized the chances provided by the absence of Christian Pulisic, Jordan Morris, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, and the rest of MLS?

More: USMNT

MLS v Europe: USMNT debate rumbles on WATCH: Post-match analysis of USMNT’s 6-2 defeat of Panama Gioacchini, Soto braces enliven USMNT center forward discussion

Goalkeepers

Zack Steffen — 180 minutes, one clean sheet
Ethan Horvath — DNP
Chitiru Odunze — DNP

Horvath not seeing the field against Panama means Berhalter sees Steffen as his no-doubt No. 1, while Odunze was just here for reps. We knew that anyway, but the 180 minutes underscores it.

Defenders

Sergino Dest — 180 minutes (two starts)
Matt Miazga — 167 minutes (two starts), assist
Reggie Cannon — 93 minutes (one start, one sub), assist
Antonee Robinson — 90 minutes (one start)
John Brooks — 90 minutes (one start)
Tim Ream — 90 minutes (one start)
Chris Richards — 10 minutes (one sub)

Dest was electric in going 90 minutes each at right and left back, one of only two players to go the distance against both Wales and Panama. Cannon had a better camp than Robinson, but was it enough to keep Dest on his non-preferred side (and can Cannon man the left)?

Brooks was the Man of the Match against Wales and is the no doubt No. 1 in the pool, talent-wise. Miazga was fine against Wales but made mistakes on both Panama goals, with Ream sharing some blame on the opener. Richards only getting 10 minutes might say more about an extended chance for Miazga than it does for the Bayern Munich man.

Midfielders

Weston McKennie — 180 minutes (two starts)
Yunus Musah — 157 minutes (two starts)
Tyler Adams — 133 minutes (two starts)
Sebastian Lletget — 100 minutes (one start, one sub), goal
Johnny Cardoso — 47 minutes (two subs)
Richy Ledezma — 22 minutes (one sub), 2 assists
Owen Otasowie — 3 minutes (one sub)

McKennie was the team’s heart and soul in both matches, going the distance and barely putting a foot awry with the exception of what could’ve been a red card tackle in the second half against Panama. Berhalter had huge praise for the Juventus man, who looks very much like a player who’s been earning minutes in the Serie A powers’ midfield. He played a big role in the first three goals versus Panama.

Musah is the real deal, and the only question is whether the ball transporter will choose playing and probably starting for the USMNT now over a chance with England down the line (He’s repped England at many youth levels). The Valencia teen’s signature would be a massive victory for the USMNT.

Adams was good in both games. The question for Berhalter is whether he’s should be the lone holding/defensive midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 or if a double pivot may be needed more often.

Lletget’s 100 minutes are both misleading and not; Berhalter shoehorning the midfielder into a start at forward against Wales shows how much he loves the player who has been good in most of his USMNT caps, but he’s not getting that look with Josh Sargent, Gyasi Zardes, and maybe now both Gioacchini and Soto available.

Cardoso is green, which Berhalter noted, but he definitely had the technical skills and tenacity often seen from players who hail from Brazilian clubs.

Ledezma proved he’s ready for prime time, at least against CONCACAF defenses, by getting into space and providing two assists to Soto. He’ll continue to get looks.

Otasowie’s cameo will lead to some questions for a player who can still choose other clubs and could soon see minutes for Wolves in the Premier League.

Forwards

Giovanni Reyna — 147 minutes (two starts), goal
Nicholas Gioacchini — 87 minutes (one start, one sub), 2 goals
Ulysses Llanez — 81 minutes (one start, one sub)
Konrad de la Fuente — 71 minutes (one start)
Timothy Weah — 24 minutes (two subs)
Sebastian Soto — 13 minutes, (one sub) 2 goals

We finally got to see Reyna with the senior team. Neither performance would qualify anywhere near his best days with Borussia Dortmund but he honestly had looked a little fatigued in recent BVB outings and frankly he probably could use a rest after a thrilling but fatiguing breakthrough in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. His free kick goal was wonderful.

Gioacchini’s and Soto’s performances against Panama will have a lot of us wondering if this would’ve been a 2-0 international break had Berhalter opted for either (or Timothy Weah) over lone-MLS representative Lletget in an out-of-position start last week. Their stock has risen the highest of any non-Reyna first-timer.

Llanez played in both matches and should only get better with more and more European minutes. He’s on loan from Wolfsburg to Dutch side Heerenveen, where he’s made three sub appearances and thrice been an unused sub. A scary-looking knee injury versus Panama was fortunately not a concern.

Weah is a big question mark. A super sub for Lille who’s scored six goals in 33 senior appearances between the Ligue 1 side, Celtic, and Paris Saint-Germain, his not starting at center forward over Lletget only to not get the call against Panama either begs questions that have yet to be asked of Berhalter. It’s reasonable enough to think he could be on a minutes restriction after a massive knee injury last season, as he’s gone 10, 8, 11, 7, 12, 1, and 14 minutes in his seven matches for second-place Lille.

Nicholas Gioacchini, Sebastian Soto offer encouragement in USMNT’s striking stocks

7:28 PM ET   Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The worth of a forward is often in the eye of the beholder. A 30-yard-blast counts as much as a 2-yard tap-in, even though the former is often what gets the hearts of fans beating faster.There is value in both kinds of goals — not to mention link play and pressing — but the U.S. men’s national team was grateful for the two short-range tallies from Nicholas Gioacchini and another pair from substitute Sebastian Soto in a 6-2 friendly win over Panama on Monday.Forward play — and really the lack of playing with one by virtue of using a false nine — was one of the main talking points following the 0-0 draw with Wales last Friday. The U.S. dominated possession but had little in the way of attacking thrust, especially in the box. Against a rebuilding Panama side, manager Gregg Berhalter decided to go with a more standard alignment, handing Gioacchini his first start. “You could tell he was a little bit apprehensive,” said Berhalter about Gioacchini. “My job was just to give him confidence and tell him that he’s good enough, and he showed it tonight.”he Caen forward didn’t get on the ball much, just 18 touches in his 77 minutes of work. But he was in the right spots when it mattered, pouncing on a rebound in 22nd minute to put the U.S. ahead for good 2-1, and then adding another four minutes later on a diving header following a slick buildup.”I had a week that I’ll never, ever, ever forget,” Gioacchini said afterward. But he was also already critiquing his own performance, which included a penalty that was saved by Panama goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera.

“My first impression I don’t think was a bad one,” he continued. “But I could have done way better for myself, been more available to the midfield even to the center-backs. In the box, I still had areas where I felt like I should have been five steps ahead of where you were, even two steps ahead. So, you know, it’s always something to review and to remember. But still, two goals is not easy for anyone.”The day was just as memorable for Soto, who came off the bench to score two headed goals. In the process, he showed off his mobility and knack for being in good spots.The play of both players hints that the depth at the forward position might be a bit deeper than originally thought, though context is needed. Mosquera looked very shaky on his international debut. It also seems unlikely that either forward will jump ahead of the likes of Josh SargentGyasi Zardes or Jozy Altidore. That said, the impression made by both players was a positive one.”For me, it was a good performance by [Soto and Gioacchini],” Berhalter said. “But it’s important. When we talked last week about potentially the depth chart of the striker and forward position being limited, any chance you get, you need to take it, and these guys did a good job.”While the forwards delivered, the play of the team as a whole was a bit all over the place, filled with some sparkling play and also some teachable moments. That was just fine with Berhalter, who was pleased to see his young side be exposed to how a game against a CONCACAF opponent can play out.”It was a very difficult game, a very physical game — more physical than the Wales game,” said Berhalter. “We needed that. The guys needed it. We had some guys calling for fouls. These aren’t going to be fouls. You’ve got to play on.”The U.S. started the match almost asleep, lacking in defensive focus, only to be woken up by Jose Fajardo‘s eighth-minute header that gave Los Canaleros a shock 1-0 lead. The U.S. soon asserted control through its midfield, scoring three times in an eight minute span, with recent birthday boy Gio Reyna netting his first international goal courtesy of a free kick that was won by Yunus Musah.

In the second half, the U.S. then returned to sleep mode, as Panama ratcheted up its intensity and physical play. Weston McKennie, while excellent on the night, was lucky to stay on the field with a two-footed tackle on Panama’s Gaby Torres that drew only a yellow card. When Fajardo bagged his second of the night in the 79th minute with well-taken drive, there was a question of whether a team with plenty of debutantes on the field could see the game out. That they did, with Richie Ledezma assisting on both of Soto’s goal and Sebastian Lletget adding another.

“That was the period I was most interested in,” said Berhalter. “I was really interested in seeing where we gonna buckle or could we hang in there. And not only did we hang in there, we pulled away at the end, scoring a number of goals, so I was pleased with the performance.”Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this international window was the play of the U.S. central midfield. Once again, Tyler Adams, McKennie, and Musah shined. The task now is to convince Musah to stick with the U.S. for the long term. The two recent performances don’t cap-tie him to the U.S., and England have made it clear they don’t intend to let Musah go without a fight. The U.S. have been able to strike first, however, and that at least gets Musah pondering his options.”I was really happy with, with Yunus’ performance, I’m really happy with him in camp. The guys really took to him well,” said Berhalter.”All I’ve ever said about players in his category is that all we want to do is create an environment for them that they want to be in, that they trust is a good environment for their development. And it seemed like that was the case for Yunus. It seems like he sees us as a pathway to continue to develop and play with a good, young group. But in the end, it’s going to be him and his family that decide.”Things are already looking up for the U.S. given how young players are beginning to establish themselves with their clubs. If Musah commits to the U.S., that feeling will only increase.

Armchair Analyst: Tactical preview of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Play-In matches

The Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs are finally here! And that means a Play-In round, because for some reason 10 teams made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference! It’s a little weird and I still don’t get it, but what the hell — more soccer is more better.

So let’s take a look:


New England Revolution vs. Montreal Impact

Friday, November 20 (6:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes, TSN 1/4, TVA Sports)

What New England will do: It’s a Bruce Arena team in the postseason, and Bruce Arena teams are first and foremost about defense in the postseason. Remember his 2011 LA Galaxy side that won the Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup double? That team had Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, David Beckham and Mike Magee, and they won their four playoff games that year 1-0, 2-1, 3-1 and 1-0.

Look at that list of players and then look at those scorelines. That’s the Platonic Ideal of a Bruce Arena playoff run.

Now look at that list of players once more, then look at the list of the Revs’ best players and… oh dear. It’s not quite the same, is it?

New England have by-and-large played good soccer this year out of a 4-4-2ish 4-2-3-1. They generate useful possession out of midfield and get both fullbacks forward into good spots, and defensively they’ve been one of the best teams in the league on top of the fact that, in Matt Turner, they have the very best goalkeeper in the league.

The problem, though, is all that useful possession has too infrequently turned into high-quality chances, and it’s because they have not gotten the sort of elite play from their DPs that Arena’s Galaxy teams could always count on:

Gustavo Bou, who was on a heater when he arrived in MLS last year, regressed in the exact manner his xG totals suggested he would. He is a conscience-less gunner who eschews the extra pass for low-percentage shots from waaaaay downtown.

Adam Buksa barely moves the needle. While his individual advanced numbers are promising, he has virtually no teamwide effect as per Second Spectrum tracking data:

  • When Buksa sits, New England overall produce 13.37 shots and 1.17xG per 90 minutes (4th and 10th in the league).
  • When Buksa plays, those numbers marginally increase to 13.78 shots and 1.25 xG per 90 (4th and 9th in the league).

Lots of shots, but a middling ROI. That’s Bou’s ethos seeping in teamwide.

All of this can be forgiven, to a degree, by the absence of playmaker Carles Gil, who managed to start just four games during an injury-riddled season. No. 10s by their very nature tend to create higher-quality chances, and Gil spent a lot of 2019 doing exactly that. His presence will help, even if he is likely better off picking the ball up in midfield and releasing the likes of Teal Bunbury and Tajon Buchanan into space than he is dictating from the final third.

What Montreal will do: They’ll most likely force New England to try and dictate from the final third. Bunbury just had probably his best year as a pro, but he is light-years more dangerous in transition than in front-foot possession. Buksa and Bou are inconsistent. Bucanan is a talent, but is not yet productive.This is the exact type of team who invites forward and just beg them to bang their collective heads against the wall for 90 minutes, and then try to smash-and-grab on the counter or a set piece. Thierry Henry’s team has not been defensively resolute enough to make that work week after week during the regular season, but they’ve got some rest now, and plenty of tape of and familiarity with the Revs. There won’t be many illusions re: what they’re facing.Enter right back/right wingback Zachary Brault-Guillard, who tormented New England when these teams first met in 2020:

His ability to make those direct runs and be dangerous at pace — while reaching a top speed that almost no one else in the league can hit — isn’t just a wild card here: It’s a devastating avenue of attack that has unbalanced the exact team they happen to be facing in this game.A lot of things have changed since March, and there will certainly be new and different faces on the pitch for both teams. And I’m not even willing to wager on what formation Henry will play (though if you forced me to, I’d say 5-4-1). But one thing I don’t think has changed since then is the best path forward for Montreal against this New England side: Up the right flank, to Brault-Guillard, and hopefully (for them) into the next round of the playoffs.

X-Factor No. 1: Whether Victor Wanyama plays or not, the Impact have been soft as hell up the spine and are prone to giving up a ton of room in that gap between the central midfield and central defense. It doesn’t matter who Wanyama’s been flanked with (Henry has at times fielded three defensive midfielders), nor whether the Impact goes with four or five at the back.

If Gil sets up shop there, Montreal’s in trouble.

And also, you can probably tell from my tone above I don’t love Bou’s shoot-on-sight mentality. But the thing is, sometimes those low-percentage looks go in, and if you’re giving him time to wind up from 28 yards and nobody’s closing him down, I don’t precisely hate his chances. A Bou golazo in those circumstances would surprise no one.

X-Factor No. 2: The Revs are one of the best teams in the league defending from open play, but are among the very worst defending on set pieces — corners in particular. Montreal aren’t anything special on restarts, but you don’t have to be to find paydirt against New England.


Nashville SC vs. Inter Miami

Friday, November 20 (9 pm ET | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, TSN 1/5, TVA Sports)

What Nashville will try to do: Nashville beat pretty much everybody’s expectations, including my own. I had them pegged for an Orlando City-esque opening season — close to the playoff race throughout the year, but eventually finishing just shy of the dance. The difference would be the 2015 Orlando City side did it with their attack, while this Nashville team was obviously built to defend.

And defend they did, right from the jump. In fact they defended so well they survived having the league’s worst attack right up until mid-September. And since then they’ve kept defending well, while the attack has evolved to “pretty ok-ish, and sometimes even good.”

And that is why they’re in the playoffs. Nashville really did earn this spot.

To reiterate, though: It’s defense first, and quite often it’s defense first, last and always. Nashville are prone toward parking themselves — almost always in a 4-2-3-1 — right in goalkeeper Joe Willis’s lap and just living off of their ability to clear their own area and then counter. Per Second Spectrum tracking data, Nashville are:

  • 2nd in the league in sequences per 90 minutes that begin in their defensive third, and 2nd in the league on transition sequences that begin in their defensive third (effectively tied for first with Portland (19.554 vs 19.552).
  • 3rd in the league on live ball turnovers per game that are won in the defensive third, behind only Portland and Dallas.
  • 8th in the league (33.143 passes per game) in long-balls, which they attempt, on average, 4th furthest from the opponent’s goal.

If you let them sit and defend a million crosses, and then give them room to counter, they will hurt you.

That said, they have progressively added more to their attack over the course of the season, including a bit of pressing:

To be perfectly honest, I think they should press the hell out of a dodgy and lacking-in-any-sort-of-chemistry Miami side as soon as the whistle blows and not stop until they’ve got a two-goal cushion. But we didn’t really see a ton of that version of Nashville.

What Miami will try to do: I kind of have no idea. There were so many changes throughout the year from Miami — personnel, formation, tactics, line of confrontation — that it’s almost impossible to predict what, exactly, we could see from them in this one. Maybe it all comes together and clicks and their multi-million-dollar global stars look like multi-million-dollar global stars. Or maybe they bag a couple of set pieces like they did on Decision Day presented by AT&T (please note: It’s easier to do that vs. Cincy than against Nashville), or maybe they… just do what they’ve done all year.

“What they’ve done all year” is have a lot of the ball and struggle to turn that into high-percentage chances. Their best looks usually come when winger Lewis Morgan is released down the right side and can pick out whoever’s making the back-post run. Know who was most effective at that in 2020? Brek Shea. Brek Shea is key to this team’s playoff hopes, folks.I tend to think Morgan and Shea will start on the wings, with Rodolfo Pizarro (if he’s back in time) as the No. 10 and Gonzalo Higuain as the center forward. Higuain has been brutally bad in front of goal — he has just one goal, which was a direct free kick, in 802 minutes since his arrival — but has actually done real and effective link-up work with his back to goal. He has arguably been the best playmaker on the team.

When you have a No. 9 doing that and two wingers who like to get to the edges of the box and a No. 10 who’s more of a runner than a playmaker, it becomes obvious what the gameplan is: Have Higuain check back to the ball and try to draw one of the Nashville center backs out, then use coordinated patterns of play to exploit that space said center back just vacated. It is easier said than done.

I do think we’re likelier to see a 4-2-3-1 than a 3-4-2-1, though neither would surprise me from Diego Alonso.

X-Factor No. 1: Nashville’s line of confrontation. I said above that I’d press the hell out of Miami — just rattle that backline early and often. They will break if you do that.

X-Factor No. 2: DP quality matters. Neither of these teams can look at their top-end talent and be happy with what was delivered this year, but if you went into the playoffs with Higuain and Pizarro as your match-winners vs. Jhonder CadizRandal Leal and Hany Mukhtar, who are you taking?

I am a big “You win with 1-through-30” guy during the regular season. But in the playoffs, sometimes it’s “you don’t lose with 3-through-15 and you hope Nos. 1 & 2 get you the dub.”

Unless Walker Zimmerman goes HAM on restarts — and he might! — Miami are better suited for that kind of competition.

Bandwagon guide to the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs: Who to root for and why

Someone has to win MLS Cup. There is a very strong chance it will not be your team. If your team is eliminated or — yikes — maybe didn’t even make the playoffs, you’ll need someone to root for the rest of the way. We’re here to help. 

Eastern Conference

Philadelphia Union

For fans of: Good tweets, The Little Rascals successfully outsmarting adults, Saying things like “strength in numbers”, Captain America, Snake-men? 

You should hop on the wagon because: The Union are the Team of the People. They would be this simply by the virtue of having Ilsinho on the team, but they’ve proven themselves to be so much more than that this year. They’ve created one of the highest-flying attacks in the league with a mixture of homegrowns and relative unknowns that embody the Soccer Man ideal of the team being stronger than the individual. You aren’t going to go wrong with adopting this team as your own. You may even win the whole thing. But with a team as fun and likable as this one, there’s always a chance they become too popular and you seem kind of lame for picking them. It’s probably worth the risk though.

Toronto FC

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6204190980001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 For fans of: Spy vs. Spy, The Escher Staircase, Groundhog Day, Eating soup for five meals a day, Clemson-Alabama national championship games, Full House

You should hop on the wagon because: There are some of you who are looking for nothing more than a little comfort in 2020. It’s totally understandable. It’s nice to have constants. And a Toronto-Seattle MLS Cup will bring you back to the comforts of 2016 or 2017 or 2019. 

For those of you looking for something beyond that, the only answer is Ayo Akinola. He’s one of the league’s best stories. He also happens to be a combination of all your favorite strikers at once. As soon as he’s done bullying you, he can turn around and prove he’s smarter than you just for fun. He’s the high school quarterback with a 4.8 GPA. It’s terrifying to go up against, but a joy to watch from afar. If you want to root for Toronto to make MLS Cup (again) but Ayo scores all the goals, everyone would understand. 

Columbus Crew SC

For fans of: Getting an A on the first three tests so you can cruise with D-’s on the last three, The Darlington Nagbe heatmap, The Akron Zips, Taxis, Guy Fieri

You should hop on the wagon because: There’s something really commendable about starting off the year so well that you can take a few weeks off toward the end and still end up near the top of the conference. The Crew are here to appeal to those among us who have the ability to make something of themselves if they apply themselves, but aren’t really worried about applying themselves just yet. They’ll show up when it matters. And now it matters. Live vicariously through them unmotivated brilliant people. 

Orlando City SC

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6171724396001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 For fans of: Sports movie montages, Self-help books, Barbecue, Lightning McQueen, That scene in “A Christmas Story” where the kid snaps and beats up the bully 

You should hop on the wagon because: This wagon might be crowded but that’s ok. Everyone else is new here, too. Everything about Orlando’s turnaround is pretty well documented by this point, but that doesn’t mean this team isn’t absurdly fun. Chris Mueller’s whole “Money Badger” thing continues to be a blessing on all of us, Daryl Dike is The Truth, Mauricio Pereyra sees like five moves ahead of everyone else, Nani!, and Ruan is still very, very fast. If you like the part in Karate Kid where the Karate Kid kicks that other kid in the face and everyone cheers including the kid who got kicked in the face because the Karate Kid is so likable at that point, this team will work for you.

NYCFC

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6206764904001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 For fans of: Fullback appreciation, “Business Casual”, Futsal, The corner of the room at parties

You should hop on the wagon because: Uhhh … you’re really into a fullback being the best player on the team? Anton Tinnerholm is fun! Otherwise, man, this team has been pretty quiet all season. They’ve been sneaky good though. They’re far closer to being in the top-four than I think anyone realizes. Maybe the hook is you’re someone who wants the unappreciated to be appreciated a little more. Or maybe it’s that you’ll have a wagon largely to yourself. Bring your Peloton. Do some yoga. Stretch yourself out. Enjoy the space. At least for now. 

New York Red Bulls

For fans of: Classic rock, Using the appropriate ratio of shampoo to conditioner, Committing to the bit, The “new manager bounce,” Looking incredible in convertibles  

You should hop on the wagon because: You love incredible hair. We could talk about this team rebounding from their coach being let go in September to become a legitimate playoff team with a chance to play a major spoiler role, but why would we when half the team has committed to not going anywhere near a barber for the last few months and They. Are. Owning it. 

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=J_SamJones&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1326187074358308864&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2020%2F11%2F19%2Fbandwagon-guide-audi-2020-mls-cup-playoffs-who-root-and-why&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px Plus, ya know, Aaron Long’s “Billy from Stranger Things” mullet. 

Nashville SC

For fans of: Keeping your air hockey paddle up against the goal, Brutalist architecture, the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, Using your car to hit a puddle right as you pass a well-dressed businessman

You should hop on the wagon because: This team is going to ruin someone’s year. You can just feel it when you watch them. They’ve been hot throughout the back end of this season and it’s largely because they don’t really let anyone score on them. And when they do, they’ve been able to find their way back into games anyway. Don’t act like their 3-2 comeback over Orlando wasn’t a serious omen. This is coming. They’re going to run out of hot chicken and signed Jason Isbell live records soon, y’all better hop on this one while you can. 

New England Revolution

For fans of: Goalkeeping, Coming back from injury at the right time, uhhhh … goalkeeping? 

You should hop on the wagon because: You love goalkeeping. And you’re heavily invested in the comeback story of Carles Gil. And … you love goalkeeping? 

Look, Matt Turner could spoil a team’s entire playoff run and there’s nothing more frustrating than losing after your team puts up like 30 shots and doesn’t score because the keeper goes off. If you’re that kind of abrasive, this team is for you.

Montreal Impact

For fans of: Being handsome, Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry being handsome, Not really caring if you lose by five as long as you score five, Google translate, Carelessly handling nitroglycerin  

You should hop on the wagon because: This team just absolutely does not care about defense. And they’re still here. Why? Because they care a lot about scoring. They’re an incredible and underrated chaos team. They’re a combo of LAFC without the millionaire talent and San Jose without the man-marking. No one gave up more goals than them in the East. This wagon may crash at any time but it will probably explode when it does. Won’t that be cool? 

Inter Miami CF

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6197239037001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036774001 For fans of: Juventus?, The Anarchist Cookbook

You should hop on the wagon because: I know everyone is staring at the Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi floor models, but can I take you to the end of the lot and show you this shiny Lewis Morgan everyone seems to be ignoring? He has five goals and eight assists this season and has scored a few stunners along the way. This team has people who can play outside of the two huge names and that should really entice you to suppo — hahahaha no, no, I’m just kidding, this bandwagon is clearly about a “10th-seed’ winning MLS Cup because we’re all deeply broken and it would be hilarious. 

Western Conference

Sporting Kansas City

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6205416620001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 For fans of: Precise haircuts, Yelling at the referees on TV even though you know they can’t hear, Watching everyone in the Royal Rumble wear themselves out before jumping in, No one believing in us.

You should hop on the wagon because: Despite this team finishing first in the Western Conference, I have a pretty good idea of how many experts and analysts and the general population outside of Kansas City are going to pick SKC to make MLS Cup. It is a very small amount. If you’re tired of good work being underappreciated or you love a team with an “Everyone is still doubting us” chip on their shoulder, this is your team. Or maybe you just love a good military brush cut? 

Seattle Sounders

For fans of: Spy vs. Spy, The Escher Staircase, Groundhog Day, Eating soup for five meals a day, Clemson-Alabama national championship games, Full House

You should hop on the wagon because: There are some of you who are looking for nothing more than a little comfort in 2020. It’s totally understandable. It’s nice to have constants. And a Toronto-Seattle MLS Cup will bring you back to the comforts of 2016 or 2017 or 2019.

For those of you looking for something beyond that, Raul Ruidiaz is liable at any time to pull off the most incredible goal you’ve ever seen in your life, Jordan Morris is a dang fighter jet on the wing despite everyone being worried about his posture, Nico Lodeiro has yet to stop running, Stefan Frei seems chill and weird in a good way, Brian Schmetzer is everyone’s dad and … I don’t know, maybe you’re really into fighting over whether certain teams are dynasties because you’re possibly anti-social? All of these are reasons this team could work for you. 

Portland Timbers

For fans of: The name Diego, Brothers, The Logging Industry, Overcoming injuries, A second Hype-Cart, Little brothers becoming taller brothers, Green

You should hop on the wagon because: If you had to take your pick of who might keep us from another Seattle-Toronto MLS Cup, it’s probably Portland. They’ve given Seattle issues for most of the season and they match up well against them. It also helps that they’ve already proven they’re an excellent tournament team this season. The MLS is Back Tournament champions are for anyone who believes in wanting the ball with the game on the line. 

Minnesota United

For fans of: Having a Google Doc listing those who have wronged you

Colorado Rapids

For fans of: Being technically correct

You should hop on the wagon because: You find it amazing that even if this team wins MLS Cup, they will have played less games than every single team in the Eastern Conference. Seriously, in 2020, that’s an incredible outcome. And for the more nihilistic of us, it would be funny. Other than that, I dunno, maybe you’re impressed by Cole Bassett in a big way? 

FC Dallas

For fans of: Luchi Gang, Big Bad Bryan, Cheez-Its, Wearing your shirt two-sizes too large, Clemson football, Tanner the Tank, Memes

You should hop on the wagon because: Dallas’ social presence alone almost makes this worth it, but throw in the fact you have likable and youthful personalities all over the field and this is a team where the wagon won’t be crowded, but everyone on it will be interesting and enjoyable. Like a cozy hipster coffeeshop before it gets too popular. This team is also talented enough to make a run if you’re into that kind of thing too. 

LAFC

For fans of: Four Loko, Chugging Four Loko, Not the new Four Loko, the old Four Loko when it was actually cool, Importing Buckfast Tonic Wine because you hear it’s like Four Loko, but maybe better, Attaching jumper cables to your ears and a live car battery while you drink Four Buckfast Tonic Wine Loko, a combination of both of your favorite drinks 

You should hop on the wagon because: The wagon is actually a tank and it’s not on the ground, it’s actually falling through the sky and the tank is on fire and this could either be the greatest night of your life or the worst. Would you like some Four Loko? 

San Jose Earthquakes

For fans of: The “Heart” character on Captain Planet, Jimmy Chitwood, The Fast and Furious franchise, Scoring with any part of your body, Opening Pandora’s Box because it’s a Saturday and you and your friends are bored, Heartfelt speeches

You should hop on the wagon because: You believe in love. You believe in the power of a team to become more than just a collection of players, but a family. An honest to God family. One that has each other’s back at every turn. You believe in one-on-one interactions, eye contact and a firm handshake. You believe in yourself. You believe in each other. You believe if hugs were currency, well then you’re the richest person alive. You believe the sun rises each day to give you one more chance to bring joy into the world.

You also believe it’s totally ok to give up two or six goals or so and look everyone’s just going to have to be OK with that, love can only get you so far.

After Germany’s 6-0 defeat to Spain, is it time for Joachim Low to go?

You have faith in your captain. He led your conquest of the Seven Seas. You see the cracks in the hull; he shows you how to repair them. You take on water; he tells you to pump it out. You capsize in Russian waters; he gets you to right the boat, jettisoning some of your most experienced crew. And then a big Spanish wave comes, nearly splitting your boat in two. Is it time to throw the captain overboard?

The 6-0 beatdown that Germany suffered against Spain is the country’s heaviest defeat since a 6-0 trouncing, in 1931, at the hands of the Austrian “Wunderteam” and “The Paper Man,” Matthias Sindelar. But the scoreline doesn’t tell the story. If it wasn’t for that “GER” emblazoned in the top left-hand corner of your screen as you watched the game, you’d be forgiven for thinking Spain were facing Liechtenstein or Andorra, such was the disparity on the pitch.

– Germany suffer biggest competitive loss | Bierhoff backs Low
– Biggest international shocks: Germany’s 6-0 not their worst result!

Germany were outshot 23-2. They had zero shots on target. They had 30% possession. Spain also hit the woodwork and, with no VAR, had another goal chalked off for what looked like a blown offside call.

Is that enough to convey the magnitude of the slaughter in Seville? Do you need more reasons for why headline writers everywhere are wittily talking about a “new Low”?

Biggest international shocks: Germany’s loss to Spain not even their worst

International football may be changing, but its currency is still that of cliché. Brazil are the creative types, Italy the defensive types and Germany, the solid, consistent, not-necessarily-pretty-but-always-present types. The stereotypes are long passé in terms of being anchored to reality, but they persist in the back of people’s minds because they aren’t conjured out of thin air, but rather reflect how a football culture sees itself.One of Jogi Low’s strengths in his heyday was to marry that sense of discipline, confidence and solidity with the tactical acumen and technical strides the country made after its reboot from the 2006 World Cup on.Under Low, first as Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant in 2006 and then in sole charge immediately after, Germany reached at least the semifinals in every major tournament right up to 2018. Then came the debacle in Russia — when they were eliminated at the group stage for the first time since 1938 — and when belief began to waver, Low sold the notion that this was just a blip.

Low took the sort of bold, decisive steps that long-tenured coaches are often accused of not being willing to make. He owned the World Cup failure. He didn’t make excuses. He ditched his longtime stalwarts, guys who had delivered for him in the past. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira were cast out immediately after the last World Cup; Thomas MullerMats Hummels and Jerome Boateng were told their services were no longer needed a few months later.Except then, you have to follow up, both with results and performances. And Germany did not.

Their competitive record since Russia — nine wins, five draws, four defeats — may not seem horrific (though it is subpar by German standards), but that includes Euro 2020 qualifying against the likes of Belarus, Northern Ireland and Estonia. Limit yourself to the last two Nations League cycles when they were facing quality opposition, and the only country they’ve beaten is Ukraine. (And one of those was last weekend, against a side weakened by positive COVID-19 tests.)

“Everything was bad, from every point of view,” is how Low summed things up after Tuesday’s match. “Nothing worked, both defensively and offensively. We gave up the first goal, and we gave up our entire plan. That killed us. We abandoned our concepts and just ran around aimlessly.”Short of resigning on the spot, you won’t find a more extreme mea culpa. But … so what?Low isn’t deluded. His Geany side was humiliated by a young, rebuilding Spain team that, for all its pedigree, isn’t exactly teeming with household names. This isn’t the Spain of a decade ago, built on the sacred pact between Pep Guardiola’s Barca and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid that delivered two Euros and a World Cup in six years. This was a team with a single Barcelona player (Sergi Roberto, who isn’t even an automatic choice at club level) and a single Real Madrid player (Sergio Ramos, who came off injured before half-time) in the starting XI. Germany gave up a hat-trick to Ferran Torres, who is 20 and is really only getting playing time at Manchester City because of injuries to Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus. On the opposite flank was Dani Olmo, who this time last season was playing for — no disrespect — Dinamo Zagreb. At center-forward was Alvaro Morata, the King of Retreads, a guy who was once a “can’t-miss prospect” and, at 28, has experienced more highs and lows than Bitcoin. At the back, you had a guy who is 23, plays for Villarreal and is in only in his second top-fight season (Pau Torres). Next to him, once Ramos went off, was a 19-year-old kid who has made 10 top-flight starts in his entire career (Eric Garcia). The goalkeeper, Unai Simon, is 23 and has started fewer than 50 top-flight games.

This is who beat Germany. Not a savvy, experienced, uber-confident side filled with world superstars, but rather a hungry team of (mostly) youngsters looking to make a name for themselves. Spain’s starting lineup included four players who have won a Big Five league or Champions League at some point: Morata, Ramos, Sergi Roberto and Koke. Germany included four who won the Treble with Bayern Munich less than three months ago, plus Toni KroosLeroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan, who are also former title-winners. And Matthias Ginter, who may not have won a league title, but did win a World Cup.That, most of all, has to be one of Low’s biggest concern. His team didn’t get humiliated because they were too old or too inexperienced or too lacking in quality. They were road-graded because they failed to react and showed no inkling of a plan on the pitch. That’s not what German teams do.Jurgen Klinsmann says only Manuel Neuer has been a leader for Germany since Thomas Muller was frozen out.Even in Russia, at their lowest ebb, they didn’t look like this. In fact, with considerable mental acrobatics, you can conjure up an alternative reality where one of the many chances they created against South Korea in Kazan goes in, the ball doesn’t deflect off Niklas Sule in injury time to play Kim Young-Gwon onside and they somehow advance and go on to achieve great things.And with the same, hyper-stretching of reality, you can blame the 2019 Nations League debacle on Muller, Hummels and Boateng, boils on Die Mannschaft lanced by their exclusion, but you can’t explain away Tuesday night in any way, shape or form. This is a scar that stays with you.It’s not over for Low, though; there’s a European championship to be played in six months — pandemic permitting — and if he turns it around, nobody will forget this night in Seville. He’ll presumably be able to count on Kai Havertz and Joshua Kimmich. The former is one of the greatest raw (emphasis on the word “raw”) in his age group (he’s 20); the latter is arguably the best all-around midfielder in the world.The front three of Sane, Gnabry and Werner is terrifyingly quick and hugely prolific. Before Seville, Neuer was once again hailed as one of the best in the world, plus he’s bounced back from setbacks before. (Even if he doesn’t, Marc-Andre ter Stegen is pretty darn good.) At the back, it looks a bit grim in terms of quality right now, but there are plenty of bodies to choose from and you only need a couple to hit form at the right time.Logic tells you all that. This boat is sturdier than it feels right now, but the question remains: is Low, at this stage, the right captain to lead it out there on the water? Does he really give you the best possible chance of being successful on the open seas? Or do his poor decisions, lack of support among the crew and inherent stubbornness (he said after the match that there was no reason to recall Muller, Hummels and/or Boateng) suggest that it’s time for the old sea dog to return to port, once and for all?

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11/13/20 – USA ties Wales, vs Panama Mon – 2:45 pm on FS1, Nations League Sat/Sun/Tues, MLS Playoffs start next weekend

Games to Watch this Weekend

Nations league play – this weekend and only 3 games on normal TV – unfortunately.   Sunday England plays Belgium on ESPN2 at 2:45 pm with England in a must win or they are out for the final.  Saturday former European Champs Portugal hosts France in a must win game at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.  Sunday the battle in group 1 between Poland, Italy, Netherlands all battle for the top spot with games on ESPN+ at 2:45 its Poland vs Italy.  Finally Croatia hosts Portugal at 2:45 pm on ESPN Tuesday.  Great games in Nations League to go along with the US vs Panama game on Monday at 2:45 pm on FS1.

US Ties @ Wales 0-0 

So what an exciting start for the youngsters of the US in their  0-0 tie with Wales.  Lets start with the positives.  This team attacked, they pressed and they maintained possession for 65% of the time, especially in the 1st half. The game was played on Wales half of the field – with the occasional counter attack.  But the US set the pace and controlled possession.  Now with control of the ball – the final 3rd communication was suspect and we only broke thru a couple of times.  We did not have a #9 tonight – not sure why Greg didn’t play one of the actual forward youngsters Soto or Gioacchini – but his use of Lleggett as a false 9 did not work.  Imagine that.  Greg does love his MLS guys.  Listen I like Lleggett he plays like an old school American – no skills all heart.  But as a #9 – he missed no fewer than 4 chances that were perfectly crossed because he was NO WHERE to be found.  He is not a forward and Greg was crazy to try it.  Hopefully he’ll send Leggett back to the US for game 2.  We have kids to see – I don’t need to see a US MLS hacker playing out of position.  Again with a healthy Josh Sargent you would have liked to see him up top to show he could do something.  But unless Soto or Gioachini get a chance up top – Altidore is still your only #9 in the US pool. 

I thought Dest was a god at right back and along with Adams and McKinney the best players on the field.  Adams and McKinney are darn near world class players now at the 6 and 8 spots and Dest should flair, solid attack and good defense at right back.  He is our best outside back – either side.  Gio Reyna had his moments but did not look comfortable in the #10 role he was handed – a winger for Dortmund – I thought he looked ok – but not great in his first start in a US Shirt.  Yunus Musa certainly showed he can move with the ball as he had some really flashy moments and good possession at times in the midfield.  Again not sure he’s not more suited at the wing like he plays for Valencia – but at 17 years old – he did not look out of place with the big boys.   Konrad started and had his chance to make a statement for the Barcelona man – but he launched the best US chance over net from 5 feet out in the first.  Overall he was good – but won’t displace Pulisic if he ever actually stays healthy enough to play. 

I thought the defense was solid – Dest has improved his defense to go along with his attacking flair on the right.  Brooks was sto in the middle and held things together and distributed really really well from the back.  I thought Miazga was ok at right center back – good distribution – but was just a 5 or so overall.  Want to see Richards there on Monday with Brooks hopefully.  On the left back– Robinson was ok – but the Fulham man definitely showed he was the weak link back there.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Dest on the left and give Reggie Cannon a run on right next game.  Overall I think the young core of the US team looked pretty good. I give them a 7 overall.  They should have had more shots to match the overwhelming time of possession but overall I think they outplayed Wales on the road (would have been interesting to see Pulisic on the wing for the US in this game).  Can’t wait to see some changes for game 2 on Monday vs a Panama team we should beat.  But, Overall a good show and an exciting time to be a US fan again.  I truly believe our U23 team with all of our guys playing the Adams, McKinney, Pulisic, Dest, Richards, Sargent, Reyna, Konrad could make a run to the semis at least – they are that good.  We are going to be good – not sure in time for 2022 – but after that – look out – I truly believe our golden generation might finally be arriving.  Next Up USA vs Panama – Monday 2:30 pm on Fox Sports 1. 

My thoughts for the Panama game start

My 11

Gioacchini or Ledezma

Llanez, Reyna, Yunus Musah

Adams, McKinney

Dest, Tim Ream, Richards, Cannon

Horvath

The USMNT roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista FC), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Antonee Robinson (Fulham)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton)

FORWARDS (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Tim Weah (Lille),

Who Are the New Guys- from

There’s a bunch! Let’s meet them:

FW: Niko Gioacchini: A 20-year-old true center forward who plays for Caen in Ligue 2. He’s rugged and strong, does good work holding up the ball and runs a lot. He reminds me a lot of Vancouver’s Lucas Cavallini. And like Cavallini at the same age, he needs to refine his goalscoring instincts. But the raw materials are good and he’s getting real minutes and scoring fairly consistently in a pretty good league at a young age.

FW: Sebastian Soto: Another 20-year-old center forward, Soto started for the US U-20s at last year’s World Cup and made news recently by flirting with accepting a call-up from Chile. He basically lost a year of development by not playing because of his club situation, but is now scoring goals for fun in the Dutch second tier while on loan to Telstar from Norwich City. He looks stronger than he did 18 months ago, but is still kind of a lightweight. He’s also much more of a poacher than a target man.

W: Gio Reyna: You know who Gio Reyna is and what he does by now, right?

W: Konrad de la Fuente: Konrad was, like Soto, a part of that U-20 team last year. Unlike Soto he struggled badly, to the point where you could question what his immediate future was. It turns out his immediate future was significant improvement with Barcelona, to the point that he’s now made the gameday squad a couple of times (but has yet to debut) for the full first team. And he’s still just 19.  He’s very right-footed and has looked much more comfortable playing inverted than as a traditional winger, as he did for Tab Ramos and the US U-20s last year.

AM: Richy Ledezma: That U-20 team was stocked, is what I’m saying. Ledezma didn’t get to show his whole range of skills since he was recovering from an injury and didn’t play much, but when he got on the field — especially against France — he was a dynamic, game-breaking No. 10. He just glides both on and off the ball, and has the ability to finish plays either by scoring or by finding the last pass.

He has not yet broken through for PSV into the regular first-team rotation (he just made his debut last week) because 1) he is too right-footed, which causes him major problems, and 2) his reactions in transition defense are poor.  I still have a lot of Richy Ledezma stock, though.

CM: Yunus Musah: The youngest member of the roster, as he was born 16 days after Reyna in 2002, Musuah’s also a surprise inclusion. He’s a tri-national who had mostly represented England in the youth national team ranks, and the US had to push to get him. They pushed hard, and they got him — at least for this camp. Nothing that happens over the next week can cap-tie him, remember.

Musah, who was born in NYC and came through the Arsenal academy system, is starting for Valencia in La Liga mostly as a right midfielder though sometimes as a right winger. Consensus seems to be that his future is more likely to be as a box-to-box No. 8, and Berhalter explicitly compared him to McKennie, so I don’t think there’s too much tea-reading necessary to figure out where he’s going to play in this camp.

DM: Johnny Cardoso: Or just “Johnny,” actually, for the New Jersey-born but Brazil-raised 19-year-old, who is already a regular with Internacional of Porto Alegre. That’s one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, and that means he’s already played a bunch both in Brazil’s top flight and in the Copa Libertadores. Johnny lacks a bit of defensive bite but I think he should be right at home in the “drop between the defenders and orchestrate from deep” role.

DM: Owen Otasowie: A giant 19-year-old defensive midfielder (who might actually fancy himself as more of a No. 8) who was born in NYC and has spent the past couple of years with the Wolves academy and in their youth ranks. He’s made one first-team appearance, back in last year’s Europa League, but hasn’t been seen or heard from with the first team since then. Otasowie’s also played some center back, both for some of the Wolves youth teams and the US U-18s. I hope that’s his long-term position.

CB: Chris Richards: Ok, back to last year’s U-20s. Richards was the rock in the center of that defense, and arguably the best prospect on that team (though obviously there are cases to be made for others, with Dest being the most obvious). He is big, strong and fast — probably an A- overall athlete — and a very good-to-great distributor of the ball (though opinions from people I respect vary on that). When he made his debut for Bayern Munich’s first team earlier this year he played as a right back. I’ll go ahead and guess that fewer than 3 percent of his total minutes for the USMNT, no matter how many he eventually accrues, will come at that spot. He is a pure center back here.

GK: Chituru Odunze: I am not going to give you a scouting report on the third-string goalkeeper. Just know that he is huge, he is from Raleigh, he is a US-Canadian dual-national and he’s with Leicester City playing in the youth ranks these days.

GAMES ON TV

Sat,  Nov 14                         Europes Nations League

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Portugal vs France

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Spain vs Switzerland

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Ukraine vs Germany

Sun,  Nov 15

9 qm ESPN+                         Scotland vs Slovakia

12 noon   ESPN+                  Ireland vs Wales 

2:45 pm  ESPN2                  England vs Belgium

2: 45 pm ESPN +                  Poland vs Italy

2: 45 pm ESPN +                  Iceland vs Denmark

Mon, Nov 16

2:45 pm FS1                USA vs Panama

Tues, Nov 17 

2:45 pm ESPN2                   Croatia vs Portugal

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Spain vs Germany

2:45 pm ESPN+                    France vs Sweden 

USA
USMNT player ratings v. Wales

YoWhat year is it? USMNT hopeful about future  Leander Schaerlaeckens »
U.S.’s young stars showed their European club pedigree vs. Wales 
Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Berhalter: ‘Ton of quality’ from U.S. in Wales draw

US Player Ratings: The kids are alright in draw vs. Wales November 12, 2020

Boehm: Three takeaways from USMNT’s draw with Wales November 12, 2020
Takeaways from US entertaing Stalemate vs Wales – Doug McIntre Yahoo Sooccer
Brave USMNT youngsters show glimpse of ‘exciting future’
Young USMNT shows edge, lacks finish in Wales draw
Berhalter thrilled when McKennie ‘flips a switch’; Pulisic the missing piece v. Wales
U.S. men’s soccer team offers hope for the future in 0-0 draw with Wales
Reyna follows dad, mom, among 6 debuts as US ties Wales 0-0

Young USMNT shows edge, lacks finish in Wales draw
Gio Reyna makes US soccer debut, a day before 18th birthday

 Stories Leading into Thursdays Game

 

Pulisic leaving U.S. camp, Reyna set for debut  Jeff Carlisle

The USMNT Picks Up the Pieces After a Long Time Away BY BRIAN STRAUS
How USMNT Call-Ups Fared in Their Final Pre-Camp Games  BY AVI CREDITOR
How USMNT’s November Camp Pieces May All Fit Together BY AVI CREDITOR


How USMNT prospect Johnny Cardoso will complement Pulisic and Reyna in midfield
 
Tim Vickery
Future of USMNT brighter than Mexico – Saucedo
 
Tom Marshall

The Weston McKinney Story – Gaurdian

Discussion with Serginio Dest of Barcelona
John Brooks and his Importance to this US Team
What Veterans Day means to three USMNT players and the recent history of the program
Howard reflects on PL career, Pulisic’s big chance

 Nations League 

Nations League W2W4: Heavyweight clashes as COVID and injuries take toll
What to look out for in Nations League finale
Rashford, Coady to miss England’s Nations League ties
‘This time we didn’t let them down’: Scotland end wait to reach major finals

Scotland qualify for Euro 2020 to end long wait as North Macedonia make history

EURO 2020: Scotland qualifies after crazy finish with Serbia


‘Our dream came true’ says North Macedonia after winning Euro 2020 place

European Championships & Nations League

Elsewhere, players are absent after testing positive for Covid-19, among them Eden Hazard, who is set to miss Belgium’s games with England and Denmark.Niklas Suele, Kai Havertz and Emre Can are missing for Germany, while Edin Dzeko is out for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Wissam Ben Yedder for France.nd it’s not just the players: Italy coach Roberto Mancini also had to go into quarantine after contracting the virus.

Then there are the injuries, with players struggling to keep up with the demands of a packed schedule.

England’s Liverpool defender Joe Gomez this week succumbed to a serious knee injury. Spain’s Ansu Fati and Germany’s Joshua Kimmich also suffered knee injuries just before this international break.

– Will holders Portugal reach finals? –

The winners of the four groups in League A will advance to the finals, which UEFA has pencilled in for October next year.

Portugal are the holders after winning the inaugural edition on home soil in 2019, and the reigning European champions face World Cup holders France in Lisbon on Saturday in a crunch game — whoever wins will be through to the finals, while a draw keeps things alive until the final Group 3 matches on Tuesday.

Poland, Italy and the Netherlands are all fighting it out in Group 1, while Belgium are in pole position in Group 2 and can knock out England with a win in Leuven on Sunday. Denmark are still in contention in that group too.

In Group 4, just one point separates Spain, Germany and Ukraine with two rounds left. It could all come down to Spain’s clash with Germany in Seville on Tuesday.

– Scotland, Wales to join elite? –

Hot on the heels of their penalty shoot-out win over Serbia which secured qualification for Euro 2020, a rejuvenated Scotland can clinch promotion to the elite League A.Steve Clarke’s side currently top League B, Group 2 by four points from the Czech Republic. A win in Slovakia on Sunday will therefore do the job, otherwise they have another chance to secure top spot in Israel on Wednesday.Wales are hoping to secure first place in League B, Group 4, with a one-point lead over Finland and home games against the Republic of Ireland and the Finns to come.

– World Cup incentive –

While the likes of Scotland and North Macedonia qualified for Euro 2020 after coming through play-offs based on performance in the last Nations League, there is an added incentive in this edition related to the 2022 World Cup.

Qualifying for Qatar 2022 will start in March, with 10 group winners advancing to the finals.

The 10 runners-up will go into the play-offs, where they will be joined by the best two Nations League group winners (based on overall rankings) who did not directly qualify or reach the play-offs.

A total of three World Cup spots will be available through the play-offs, so Qatar remains a long way off, but this is still an extra reason for the likes of Scotland, Wales and others to top their Nations League groups.

Three things we learned from USMNT’s draw with Wales

Andy Edwards  Thu, November 12, 2020, 4:48 PM EST

Wales – USMNT: So what if the U.S. men’s national team played a very young Wales side to a mostly dull scoreless draw in Swansea on Thursday?The (not-so-) Baby Yanks were far and away the better side, but more importantly every returning player showed signs of individual progress made in 2020.Here are three things we learned about Gregg Berhalter’s side on a rainy night in south Wales…

The great thing about kids is, they eventually grow up

It had been so long — 285 days, to be exact — since we saw the USMNT and its promising generation of youngsters that some of them almost seemed unrecognizable with another year of life’s experiences under their belts. For all of the excitement around the “potential” of this group, everything still hinges upon continued development and reaching said potential. It can be difficult to see improvement with regular exposure, but the last nine months have afforded us an opportunity to look at these players in a very clear before-and-after light, so the question is this: Who has grown up the most since we last saw them in the red, white and blue?

  • Sergiño Dest — Aside from simply looking the part of a 20-year-old professional at arguably the world’s biggest club, Dest now appears to have a far greater understanding of where he’s supposed to be at all times, and when he can (or can’t) take a chance on either side of the ball.
  • John Brooks — This is a bit of a different one with Brooks ascending to another level as he enters his late-20s, but Brooks appears to have done a complete 180 from previous USMNT appearances. More on him in a moment.
  • Weston McKennie — For 45 minutes, McKennie was everywhere, in everything, bothering everyone. It was a far cry from the “never stop running while never actually arriving anywhere” maximum-effort approach of caps gone by. McKennie was more active than ever before, but with purpose and a tangible impact on the team — taking the ball of attackers, winning important second balls and attempting (and even sometimes completing) aggressive forward passes.

Given the positions they play and the clubs they play for, you can make an easy case that Dest, Brooks and McKennie are three of the five most important players for the USMNT as they tackle the next 24 months leading up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The fact they look to be the most improved individuals of the last 9-12 months should be a very comforting sign of things to come.

More USMNT news

VIDEO: The good and the bad from Wales 0-0 USMNT Brave USMNT youngsters show glimpse of ‘exciting future’ Berhalter thrilled when McKennie ‘flips a switch’; Pulisic the…

[ MORE: Berhalter thrilled when McKennie “flips a switch” ]

John Brooks has taken ownership of the defense

Wales managed to take all of four — yes, four — shots in this game, so this isn’t so much an assessment of Brooks, ball-winning defender, as it is about Brooks, ball-playing defender.

As we’ll discuss in another brief moment, the USMNT struggled a fair bit to move the ball from defensive third to middle third, but much more so to move the ball from middle third to final third. In a word, such progression of the ball was nonexistent. It’s nice to have a Plan B, though, and Brooks was very happy to step into the void and play a bunch of ultra-aggressive, line-breaking passes from the backline. On the rare instance the Yanks made their way into the Welsh penalty area, it was typically a direct result of Brooks picking out Konrad de la Fuente or Yunus Musah making an inside run into either channel. While it amounted to very little on Thursday, imagine Brooks playing those same passes in behind with someone else on the receiving end…

Throw in Christian Pulisic, and…

Watching the USMNT run into the glass half-circle around Wales’ defensive third was a never-ending exercise in frustration, but don’t let that discourage you altogether, because yet another youngster — 22-year-old Christian Pulisic — figures to be the missing piece for a team completely devoid of one-on-one attackers. The issue on Thursday wasn’t so much that there wasn’t a natural or recognized striker on the field for 79 minutes — though, it didn’t help — but that the front-four of Gio Reyna, Musah, de la Fuente and Sebastian Lletget are all quite passive on the ball.

Unless they see 20 yards of open space in front of them, everyone is looking to make the pass to someone in a better position. When Pulisic gets on the ball, whether in traffic or open space, he’s almost always going to carry it forward and create that open space for someone else by drawing defenders toward him. Without that player against Wales, the USMNT was slow at its best, and completely static at its worst.

U.S.’s young stars European club pedigree was visible at international level vs. Wales

6:36 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

In the 285 days since the U.S. men’s national team previously played, it seemed there was a sea change for the Americans. The U.S. now has a player at Juventus in Weston McKennie, while Sergino Dest and Konrad de la Fuente are on the first-team roster at Barcelona. That’s to go along with Christian Pulisic at Chelsea and Tyler Adams at UEFA Champions League semifinalists RB Leipzig.

With that kind of pedigree in its ranks, and youngsters like Borussia Dortmund‘s Giovanni Reyna and Valencia‘s Yunus Musah breaking through, expectations have been raised considerably, even as manager Gregg Berhalter tries to downplay them.Which is why Thursday’s 0-0 draw against host Wales felt like a different kind of result on European soil. A look at the score and one would think that this was another one of those gritty, grind-it-out draws on the road, but it was nothing of the sort. The U.S. showed the kind of calmness and patience on the ball that has been rare in its trips to Europe. Playing out of tight spaces was the rule rather than the exception, with the three-man midfield of McKennie, Adams and Musah doing plenty to control the game’s tempo.

Musah — one of six U.S players to make their debut — looked nothing like a 17-year-old, and while there were moments when he could have released the ball quicker, he showed plenty of ability in terms of running at defenses as well as vision. Given that Musah is eligible to represent England and Ghana as well as the U.S., Berhalter can only hope that he ultimately chooses to represent the U.S. over other contenders.

Reyna found the going a bit tougher, and at times was even guiltier of hanging onto the ball too long. He had some dynamic moments running with the ball, but also let his frustrations get the better of him. Midway through the second half, he barged into Wales defender Tom Lockyer in retaliation for what he perceived as a foul that went uncalled. It’s precisely the kind of play that on the road in CONCACAF could be punished severely. Still, it was a day the 17-year-old Reyna will long remember.As for Adams, the match was not only his first for the U.S. in 20 months, but one in which he anchored the U.S. midfield after Berhalter had dabbled with playing him at right-back. The American side looked better for having Adams’ energy and passing in front of the defense, although John Brooks in particular looked composed in the back.”I felt good because I think that’s my natural position,” Adams said. “Being out there, being able to kind of command everything that was going on in front of me, tell players when to go and when not to go, to initiate the press, when to stay back, it allows me to lead the team in a better way, I think. I was confident in the guys in front of me understanding the tactics so it made my job a little bit easier, but I love being the cover in front of the back line being able to win balls and then just give it to the guys in front of me and let them do their thing.”The U.S. was also extremely effective in its press, and the Americans’ two best chances of the night came directly off turnovers in Wales’ defensive third, although it should be noted that this was a Welsh side missing several key players, including Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, while Ben Davies and Ethan Ampadu remained on the bench.

Yet for all of the possession that the U.S. had, there was a distinct lack of punch in the attacking third. Some of this was down to Berhalter’s decision to play Sebastian Lletget as a false nine, but it’s important to drill deeper on how the approach fared. In terms of providing an outlet and allowing the U.S. to play out of its own half, Lletget did well, completing 28 of his 32 passes. On the one hand, this is precisely what Berhalter wanted Lletget to do. But farther up field, the tactic wasn’t as successful, although that wasn’t down to just the player.”We wanted him to look for the third man more than he did,” Berhalter said about Lletget. “I think he did it once or twice, but as he comes down and it needs to be laid off, and then we should be moving behind, I think the wingers weren’t in a high-enough position to take advantage of that at times. That was something that we missed.”McKennie added that the U.S. was a bit beholden to looking for combination play rather than the run in behind the defense, something that the injured Pulisic would have helped with.”A one-on-one type of player that can beat the defender, and get down the side and play a ball in or cross it, that’s something [Pulisic] has done many times, as you saw in Gold Cup as well,” McKennie said. “I think the dynamic movement in behind the line was something that we were missing. And that’s something that we’ll obviously look at in the video, just to see how many runs we made in behind the line to open up the space and just make that unselfish run.”It has to be said that this is a group that still needs time to develop chemistry. In addition to the lengthy hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. had just two days of training — and just one full session — prior to this match. But the question still remains: Who will get the goals and provide that presence in the box to draw more attention from opposition center-backs? For that reason — and with Josh Sargent unavailable due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions — it might have made more sense to get Nicholas Gioacchini on earlier or give Sebastian Soto his debut, although there is still another game to play against Panama on Monday. The forward depth chart has long been thin, and there are scant opportunities to see what the current group of forwards can do.

That said, the foundation of possession and pressing is one that looks a bit more ingrained in the players. Given the state of the game amid a pandemic, that is largely down to the progress U.S. performers have made at club level. But Berhalter will nonetheless be pleased that he has more to work with, and the Wales match counts as a step forward.

USMNT Player Ratings: Sergino Dest, Tyler Adams stand out in scoreless draw at Wales

November 12, 20206:33PM ESTGreg SeltzerContributor

After more than nine months out of action, the US men’s national team got back on the field with a very green lineup that handled themselves admirably in a scoreless draw at Wales.The kids’ pressure game had them verging on dominant in the opening frame, with only a bit of immaturity in the final third holding them back. They looked a lot more pedestrian after halftime, which shaved hairs of the marks you see below.

United States Player Ratings

Zack Steffen (6.5) — On the plus side, his save just past the hour was the biggest of the game. On the other hand, we saw another ill-advised bit of distribution that could have gone horribly wrong.

Sergiño Dest (7) — The Barcelona right back’s near constant push up the flank repeatedly put Wales into scrambling situations, and a couple of his deliveries into the box deserved better pursuit.

Matt Miazga (7) — While the Anderlecht man ably handled all comers to the US defensive third, what most caught the eye about Miazga’s outing was arguably his best night of passing out of the back in a US shirt. He wasn’t breaking lines, he was flat out erasing them.

John Brooks (6) — Miazga’s partner also passed positively, as you’d expect him to do, and made a few nice interventions around the US box in the second half. However, he also got burnt on a couple of dicey steps into midfield.

Antonee Robinson (5.5) — The young left back had his moments defensively, but a bad tracking lapse granted Wales their best chance of the night. Robinson was functional going forward without ever finding room for one of his fine crosses.

Tyler Adams (7) — The RB Leipzig gatekeeper was routinely stepped in to halt any Welsh ideas of a rush up the gut, especially in the first half. Adams also showed the maturity in his transition passing game on a few occasions.

Weston McKennie (6.5) — It was an excellent first half from the Juventus midfielder. McKennie was routinely available for the ball, and though not all of his passes came off, he drove play and served the best low cross of the night. His rating dropped a shade after the break, when he kept fanning out wide, which is not where his strength lies.

Yunus Musah (6.5) — The teen debutant impressed enough that one could easily see the possibilities of his talent. Musah excelled as a fast conduit through the middle, both on the dribble and with prompt passing decisions, and was a dogged nuisance when it came time to win the ball back. He also found some good positions in attack, but flubbed a few lines there.

Highlights: Wales 0, United States 0

Giovanni Reyna (5) — Another teenager getting his first cap, Reyna was a bit underwhelming on this night. Whenever he got the ball, his “processing speed” was unusually slow. This caused him to get his pocket picked from behind more than you’d like, and kept him from finding a killer pass around the Wales area.

Sebastian Lletget (5) — Horribly miscast as a center forward, Lletget looked like a guy horribly miscast as a center forward. A proper striker probably would have demonstrated more killer instinct on a couple of crosses into the money zone. There’s not much else to say, but he did serve a few tempting restarts.

Konrad de la Fuente (4.5) — For me, the teenager simply doesn’t look like he’s ready for this level. The Barcelona prospect never challenged defenders and he fired wildly over when presented with a gift of a golden chance.

Coach Gregg Berhalter (5.5) — Let’s start with the good stuff. Despite having a highly inexperienced squad that needed a lot of introductions before the game, they came out executing both the press and the resulting fast build game like it was a familiar routine. That is not an easy thing to do, and Berhalter deserves kudos on that point.

On the other hand, few things grind my gears more than ruining the formation by going without a real center forward when three of them are available. And the fact that the boss kept Lletget leading the line until the 79th minute when it was obviously hampering a game plan that looked great until it was time to strike is downright annoying. Big red mark for that. Let’s not do that again.

Substitutes

Johnny Cardoso (6) — Though a few passes could have been shrewder, the defensive midfield debutant quickly showed that he’s got a handle on his primary function. A “stick in the spokes” reach foiled Wales at the door the US area, and then he committed a well-chosen professional foul to cut short a potential counter.

Ulysses Llanez (6) — The young winger wasted no time looking to goal, forcing a decent save with a long-range drive. Aside from that, not much to report from his 19 minutes.

Timothy Weah (-) — Working 11 minutes will typically get one a grade here, but Weah never got an offensive touch. His biggest impact came tracking back to harass a Welsh ball carrier.

Nicholas Gioacchini (-) — See Weah above.

Owen Otawosie (-) — A mere cameo for the teen midfielder on his debut.

Reggie Cannon (-) — In just three minutes, the Boavista right back was more involved than the three guys directly above him combined. As you’d expect, he looked solid.

Three takeaways from US men’s national team’s 0-0 draw with Wales | Charles Boehm

November 12, 20206:30PM ESTCharles BoehmNational Writer

Despite relative paucity of goal danger, the US men’s national team gave us some tasty morsels to chew on in their long-awaited return to play, banking a decent 0-0 draw with Wales at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium on Thursday.Teenagers Konrad de la Fuente, Yunus Musah (sign him up!) and Gio Reyna made their debuts, a bustling central-midfield trio imposed themselves on the home side and the US controlled the tempo, if not the scoreboard. Here are a few other observations.

Engine room humming

As promised, Gregg Berhalter trotted out a front-foot 4-3-3, and as promised, Musah took up a central position, working alongside Weston McKennie in an FC Dallas-esque “twin No. 8s” setup backed by Tyler Adams at the 6. And verily, it was good.Showing prodigious range and bite, the troika asserted their dominance in the center of the park, looking eager to embrace Berhalter’s more assertive pressing approach. Their energy pushed Wales onto the back foot and made sure that the USMNT had plenty of the ball, tilting the possession battle 61-39 in their favor (and in the early stages it was even more one-sided than that).This didn’t solve the issues in the attacking third, but it certainly gave the Yanks a stable platform upon which to build further, and hinted at a fittingly aggressive identity in the bigger picture.

Sugar and spice

It wasn’t all blood, guts and destruction. Both the aforementioned central trio and several others, Sergino Dest in particular, were downright Brazilian in their displays of flair and swagger, squeezing in feints, dragbacks, stepovers and even an elastico at every opportunity.Of course it all needed to be capped by a firm finish or two to earn a victory. Still, given the grim cloud of frustration and opprobrium that’s hung over the program since the nightmarish finale to 2018 World Cup qualifying in Couva, it was extremely heartening to see a youthful group infused with such joy and creativity, and the beginnings of a real understanding – to borrow a term coined by McKennie, “comfortability” with one another.“You know, a footballer can recognize someone that can play football,” added McKennie. “I can recognize what someone’s good at, what someone’s not good at. And I think we all know that we like to play. We like to combine, like to make those small touches and small passes.”“In the past we didn’t so much have the little flair, the tiki-taka type, I guess, of playing … So it was just fun. I think a lot of guys had fun being out there.”t’s been far too long since this program took pride in themselves as not merely a hard-working side defending the colors, but an entertainment product, and a spicy one at that. When Dest nutmegged Dan James with a very extra, and mostly unnecessary, snake along the touchlines, it hinted at a brave new world, one that most USMNT fans will want to see a whole lot more of.

Number 9, number 9, number 9…

On first blush, Berhalter probably bears as much responsibility as anyone for the goose egg, because his deployment of Sebastian Lletget as a false No. 9 didn’t really come off. Postgame the coach explained that the idea was to create numerical advantages in midfield while also forcing the Welsh defense to make tough decisions on the fly.But as smart, selfless and willing as he is, Lletget just doesn’t play this role often, for club or country, and it showed. He looked to be playing catchup in terms of the movements and runs needed to maximize his teammates’ good work once they reached the Wales penalty box, and at that level, something more like autopilot is needed to strike paydirt.COVID-19-related restrictions prevented Josh Sargent from joining the USMNT this month, and he surely would’ve gotten the start otherwise, but it would have been good to see more time given to a true frontrunner like Sebastian Soto or Nicholas Gioacchini, who logged 11-plus minutes off the bench but had little opportunity to show himself.Thursday lends weight to the idea of a call-up for Orlando City’s Daryl Dike, and may lead fans to light a few more candles for Jozy Altidore’s troublesome hamstrings.

11/12/20 –US Men today vs Wales 2:45 pm Fox Sports 1, Nations League this weekend, Euro Qualifying today

USA Friendly’s Thurs 2:45 FS1 vs Wales/Mon 2:45 vs Panama FS1

So huge excitement for the upcoming friendly’s with an almost entirely European group of players – many of them under the age of 23.  In fact the average age is just over 22 for this group that will take on Wales and Garreth Bale.  OF course Christian Pulisic will not play – but first timers Gio Reyna of Dortmund, Konrad de la Fuente from Barcelona and Sebasatian Soto of Telstar – all U20 WC players for the US should excite folks.  Also American born 18 YO winger Yunus Musah starting now at Valencia, a kid born in New York who grew up in England, has accepted the invite to check out how the US does things after representing England at the youth level. Also look out for Dual National Nicholas Gioacchini a 20 year-old forward from Caen in France.  He might just get the start as he’s eligibile to play for the US where he was born and lived until he was 8, Italy where he lived with his Italian dad until going to Caen at 15, or Jamaica where is mom is from.  He has played for both the US and Italy at the youth level.  Interesting that both our young center forward prospects are dual nationals who will be deciding soon who they will play for.  Lets hope both get a run to show us what they’ve got today.  Honestly – with all the new guys – extremely excited to see how the youngsters looked today – even if we take a beating against a much more experienced squad in Wales.  I see 2-1 Wales or maybe 2-2 if the kids up front can score.  

My thoughts for the Wales game start

My 11

Soto or Gioacchini

Konrad, Reyna, Yunus Musah

Adams, McKinney

Robinson, Brooks, Richards, Dest

Steffan

The USMNT roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista FC), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Antonee Robinson (Fulham)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton)

FORWARDS (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Tim Weah (Lille),

Who Are the New Guys-

There’s a bunch! Let’s meet them:

FW: Niko Gioacchini: A 20-year-old true center forward who plays for Caen in Ligue 2. He’s rugged and strong, does good work holding up the ball and runs a lot. He reminds me a lot of Vancouver’s Lucas Cavallini. And like Cavallini at the same age, he needs to refine his goalscoring instincts. But the raw materials are good and he’s getting real minutes and scoring fairly consistently in a pretty good league at a young age.

FW: Sebastian Soto: Another 20-year-old center forward, Soto started for the US U-20s at last year’s World Cup and made news recently by flirting with accepting a call-up from Chile. He basically lost a year of development by not playing because of his club situation, but is now scoring goals for fun in the Dutch second tier while on loan to Telstar from Norwich City. He looks stronger than he did 18 months ago, but is still kind of a lightweight. He’s also much more of a poacher than a target man.

W: Gio Reyna: You know who Gio Reyna is and what he does by now, right?

W: Konrad de la Fuente: Konrad was, like Soto, a part of that U-20 team last year. Unlike Soto he struggled badly, to the point where you could question what his immediate future was. It turns out his immediate future was significant improvement with Barcelona, to the point that he’s now made the gameday squad a couple of times (but has yet to debut) for the full first team. And he’s still just 19.  He’s very right-footed and has looked much more comfortable playing inverted than as a traditional winger, as he did for Tab Ramos and the US U-20s last year.

AM: Richy Ledezma: That U-20 team was stocked, is what I’m saying. Ledezma didn’t get to show his whole range of skills since he was recovering from an injury and didn’t play much, but when he got on the field — especially against France — he was a dynamic, game-breaking No. 10. He just glides both on and off the ball, and has the ability to finish plays either by scoring or by finding the last pass.

He has not yet broken through for PSV into the regular first-team rotation (he just made his debut last week) because 1) he is too right-footed, which causes him major problems, and 2) his reactions in transition defense are poor.  I still have a lot of Richy Ledezma stock, though.

CM: Yunus Musah: The youngest member of the roster, as he was born 16 days after Reyna in 2002, Musuah’s also a surprise inclusion. He’s a tri-national who had mostly represented England in the youth national team ranks, and the US had to push to get him. They pushed hard, and they got him — at least for this camp. Nothing that happens over the next week can cap-tie him, remember.

Musah, who was born in NYC and came through the Arsenal academy system, is starting for Valencia in La Liga mostly as a right midfielder though sometimes as a right winger. Consensus seems to be that his future is more likely to be as a box-to-box No. 8, and Berhalter explicitly compared him to McKennie, so I don’t think there’s too much tea-reading necessary to figure out where he’s going to play in this camp.

DM: Johnny Cardoso: Or just “Johnny,” actually, for the New Jersey-born but Brazil-raised 19-year-old, who is already a regular with Internacional of Porto Alegre. That’s one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, and that means he’s already played a bunch both in Brazil’s top flight and in the Copa Libertadores. Johnny lacks a bit of defensive bite but I think he should be right at home in the “drop between the defenders and orchestrate from deep” role.

DM: Owen Otasowie: A giant 19-year-old defensive midfielder (who might actually fancy himself as more of a No. 8) who was born in NYC and has spent the past couple of years with the Wolves academy and in their youth ranks. He’s made one first-team appearance, back in last year’s Europa League, but hasn’t been seen or heard from with the first team since then. Otasowie’s also played some center back, both for some of the Wolves youth teams and the US U-18s. I hope that’s his long-term position.

CB: Chris Richards: Ok, back to last year’s U-20s. Richards was the rock in the center of that defense, and arguably the best prospect on that team (though obviously there are cases to be made for others, with Dest being the most obvious). He is big, strong and fast — probably an A- overall athlete — and a very good-to-great distributor of the ball (though opinions from people I respect vary on that). When he made his debut for Bayern Munich’s first team earlier this year he played as a right back. I’ll go ahead and guess that fewer than 3 percent of his total minutes for the USMNT, no matter how many he eventually accrues, will come at that spot. He is a pure center back here.

GK: Chituru Odunze: I am not going to give you a scouting report on the third-string goalkeeper. Just know that he is huge, he is from Raleigh, he is a US-Canadian dual-national and he’s with Leicester City playing in the youth ranks these days.

Thur, Nov 12                                 

12 pm ESPN2                                  Georgia vs North Macedonia Euro Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN2                              Serbia vs Scotland Euro Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Hungary vs Iceland Euro Qualifying

Sat,  Nov 14                                    Europes Nations League

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Portugal vs France

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Spain vs Switzerland

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Ukraine vs Germany

Sun,  Nov 15

9 qm ESPN+                                    Scotland vs Slovakia

12 noon   ESPN+                           Ireland vs Wales 

2:45 pm  ESPN2                             England vs Belgium

2: 45 pm ESPN +                            Poland vs Italy

2: 45 pm ESPN +                            Iceland vs Denmark

Tues, Nov 17 

2:45 pm ESPN2                              Croatia vs Portugal

2:45 pm ESPN+                              Spain vs Germany

2:45 pm ESPN+                              France vs Sweden 

USA

USA vs. Wales, 2020 friendly: What to watch for By Donald Wine II
How USMNT Call-Ups Fared in Their Final Pre-Camp Games  BY AVI CREDITOR
What to Look for USA Vs Wales – Matt Doyle

Scouting Wales

Pulisic leaving U.S. camp, Reyna set for debut  1hJeff Carlisle

The USMNT Picks Up the Pieces After a Long Time Away BY BRIAN STRAUS
How USMNT’s November Camp Pieces May All Fit Together BY AVI CREDITOR


How USMNT prospect Johnny Cardoso will complement Pulisic and Reyna in midfield
 
Tim Vickery
Future of USMNT brighter than Mexico – Saucedo
 
Tom Marshall

The Weston McKinney Story – Gaurdian

Discussion with Serginio Dest of Barcelona
 

Nations League 

Nations League W2W4: Heavyweight clashes as COVID and injuries take toll
Mourinho told Bale will be looked after by Wales

USA vs. Wales, 2020 friendly: What to watch for

We preview the first USMNT match in 10 months!  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 11, 2020, 7:01am PST

, after a 286-day layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be back in action tomorrow when they take on Wales at Liberty Stadium in Swansea. The USMNT will be looking to close out a weird 2020 the way it started: with a win. The 22nd ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings will look to play well on the road behind closed doors at the home of a Welsh team that’s ranked 20th in the world and looking to sharpen up before they finish UEFA Nations League play.

2020 Form

USA

W (1-0) – Costa Rica – Friendly

Wales

W (1-0) – Bulgaria – UEFA Nations League

D (0-0) – Ireland – UEFA Nations League

W (1-0) – Bulgaria – UEFA Nations League

W (1-0) – Finland – UEFA Nations League

What To Watch For

Control the middle of the field: This is the battle to be most excited about when the two teams hit the field. Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in the middle trying to control possession and advance the ball forward? Dream status. This is where the biggest battle will be. If the USMNT can control possession in the midfield, they will have a great chance to keep the Welsh at bay and have some opportunities to score.

Create attack through the middle: We’re all highly anticipating to see the attack go through Gio Reyna, but the young wings coach Gregg Berhalter has at his disposal will also be fun to watch. We have some speed, so look for the young’uns to exploit that on the flanks. Because of that speed, they hopefully will be able to get behind the Cymru defense and create some chances to score. That possession will help, and remaining in control in the final third is going to be essential.

Play like there’s no tomorrow: The coronavirus pandemic has proven to us all: you don’t know when your next match will come. The intensity and grit that has defined the USMNT over much of the 2010s has been absent lately. There’s no better time than now to reclaim that mantra. We can’t assume the Panama match will be played as scheduled because so much can happen between Thursday and Monday. So, the players should try to win the intensity battle. Play like there’s no match on Monday or for the foreseeable future, and just go for it.

Enjoy it: A bonus 4th item: let’s all have fun with this! It’s our first USMNT match in 10 months! It’s great to see the team get back together and for us to reunite and talk about the team and its direction. We’re excited to see the new players and some of the young stars combine to give us some thrills. So, let’s enjoy that tomorrow. We’re certainly going to overanalyze performances in what has been a messed up year, but one thing is for sure: the boys are back!

Lineup Prediction

The USMNT has a ridiculously young roster, with 10 players having never stepped onto the field in the red, white, and blue. Because of that, it can be an interesting lineup choice for Gregg Berhalter, but in the end, this is what we could see on the field: Projected USMNT Starting XI

Gioacchini

Konrad/Reyna/Weah

MCKennie/Adams

Robinson/Brooks/Miazga/Dest

Steffan

Zack Steffen’s the #1 goalkeeper, and he’s going to get the start in this first game. Because it’s a friendly, don’t be surprised to see Ethan Horvath enter in the second half, but chances are Steffen gets the full match. On the back line, Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest are the fullbacks, and John Brooks and Matt Miazga the centerback pairing. Richards could be an interesting plug in here in place of Miazga, but against Wales Berhalter opts for the player with a little more experience.In the midfield, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie link up, with Adams serving as the defensive midfielder and McKennie going box to box. Ahead of them, Gio Reyna is in the middle to serve up the attack, with Konrad de la Fuente and Tim Weah on the wings to provide speed and creative options. Expect Yunus Musah to get some playing time as well.Up top, Sebastian Soto could get the nod here, but Berhalter looks to give an immediate debut to one of his new dual nationals, and Nicholas Gioacchini gets the start.

Prediction

This is an intriguing matchup, the first time the two teams have stepped on the field together in 17 years. However, because it’s a friendly, it’s going to be a struggle for both teams to get into it early on. It will pick up around the 30 minute mark as both teams begin to relax a bit and play ball. There will be some chances, but not a lot of scoring. Nicholas Gioacchini scores the lone goal for the United States, the first given up by Wales this year. However, a penalty is hammered home by Gareth Bale in the 2nd half, and it ends in a 1-1 draw.

Armchair Analyst: How the US men’s national team will play vs. Wales & Panama

November 11, 202010:32AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

It has been nine-and-a-half long months since the US men’s national team last took the field, so now feels like a very good time for a reset of what Gregg Berhalter’s trying to accomplish, how he’s trying to accomplish it and who he’s trying to accomplish it with. This is especially true since this newest 24-man camp roster, announced last week and taking the field for the first time on Thursday against Wales, is stuffed with largely new and almost entirely very young faces.That doesn’t mean this isn’t a reboot after an up-and-down 2019 from Berhalter and the USMNT. But it a distinctly new phase.

What Happened Last Time

Way back in early February a largely experimental and primarily MLS-based US side — this was the January camp game, remember — pretty thoroughly bossed what I’d consider the Costa Rican A- team. It ended 1-0 on a Uly Llanez goal after Reggie Cannon had drawn a penalty thanks to a smart overlap, but the score really did flatter the Ticos, who never really threatened.The game was a departure from what the US had done throughout most of 2019 not because of the personnel or the scoreline, but because of how they’d done it. There was much more pressing out of a 4-3-3 and the mid-block 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2) that had proved itself tissue-soft against Mexico in September and Canada in October was mothballed.

How do the US Want to Play?

This is where formational shorthand kind of fails. If you ask me what formation Berhalter wants his team to play in, I’ll probably just say “4-2-3-1” or “4-3-3” because one of those two will be how it’s written on the team sheet. But the reality is that there will be multiple different looks depending upon the phase of the game.This is not new or unusual in the world of soccer! There are very few teams that defend in a 4-3-3, possess in a 4-3-3 and attack in a 4-3-3. Our game is beautiful and fluid and dynamic, and that means you’ll see a lot of different shapes.

Who Are the New Guys?

There’s a bunch! Let’s meet them:

FW: Niko Gioacchini: A 20-year-old true center forward who plays for Caen in Ligue 2. He’s rugged and strong, does good work holding up the ball and runs a lot. He reminds me a lot of Vancouver’s Lucas Cavallini. And like Cavallini at the same age, he needs to refine his goalscoring instincts. But the raw materials are good and he’s getting real minutes and scoring fairly consistently in a pretty good league at a young age.

FW: Sebastian Soto: Another 20-year-old center forward, Soto started for the US U-20s at last year’s World Cup and made news recently by flirting with accepting a call-up from Chile. He basically lost a year of development by not playing because of his club situation, but is now scoring goals for fun in the Dutch second tier while on loan to Telstar from Norwich City.

He looks stronger than he did 18 months ago, but is still kind of a lightweight. He’s also much more of a poacher than a target man.

W: Gio Reyna: You know who Gio Reyna is and what he does by now, right?

W: Konrad de la Fuente: Konrad was, like Soto, a part of that U-20 team last year. Unlike Soto he struggled badly, to the point where you could question what his immediate future was.

It turns out his immediate future was significant improvement with Barcelona, to the point that he’s now made the gameday squad a couple of times (but has yet to debut) for the full first team. And he’s still just 19.

He’s very right-footed and has looked much more comfortable playing inverted than as a traditional winger, as he did for Tab Ramos and the US U-20s last year.

AM: Richy Ledezma: That U-20 team was stocked, is what I’m saying. Ledezma didn’t get to show his whole range of skills since he was recovering from an injury and didn’t play much, but when he got on the field — especially against France — he was a dynamic, game-breaking No. 10. He just glides both on and off the ball, and has the ability to finish plays either by scoring or by finding the last pass.

He has not yet broken through for PSV into the regular first-team rotation (he just made his debut last week) because 1) he is too right-footed, which causes him major problems, and 2) his reactions in transition defense are poor.

I still have a lot of Richy Ledezma stock, though.

CM: Yunus Musah: The youngest member of the roster, as he was born 16 days after Reyna in 2002, Musuah’s also a surprise inclusion. He’s a tri-national who had mostly represented England in the youth national team ranks, and the US had to push to get him. They pushed hard, and they got him — at least for this camp. Nothing that happens over the next week can cap-tie him, remember.

Musah, who was born in NYC and came through the Arsenal academy system, is starting for Valencia in La Liga mostly as a right midfielder though sometimes as a right winger. Consensus seems to be that his future is more likely to be as a box-to-box No. 8, and Berhalter explicitly compared him to McKennie, so I don’t think there’s too much tea-reading necessary to figure out where he’s going to play in this camp.

DM: Johnny Cardoso: Or just “Johnny,” actually, for the New Jersey-born but Brazil-raised 19-year-old, who is already a regular with Internacional of Porto Alegre. That’s one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, and that means he’s already played a bunch both in Brazil’s top flight and in the Copa Libertadores.

Johnny lacks a bit of defensive bite but I think he should be right at home in the “drop between the defenders and orchestrate from deep” role.

DM: Owen Otasowie: A giant 19-year-old defensive midfielder (who might actually fancy himself as more of a No. 8) who was born in NYC and has spent the past couple of years with the Wolves academy and in their youth ranks. He’s made one first-team appearance, back in last year’s Europa League, but hasn’t been seen or heard from with the first team since then.

Otasowie’s also played some center back, both for some of the Wolves youth teams and the US U-18s. I hope that’s his long-term position.

CB: Chris Richards: Ok, back to last year’s U-20s. Richards was the rock in the center of that defense, and arguably the best prospect on that team (though obviously there are cases to be made for others, with Dest being the most obvious). He is big, strong and fast — probably an A- overall athlete — and a very good-to-great distributor of the ball (though opinions from people I respect vary on that).

When he made his debut for Bayern Munich’s first team earlier this year he played as a right back. I’ll go ahead and guess that fewer than 3 percent of his total minutes for the USMNT, no matter how many he eventually accrues, will come at that spot. He is a pure center back here.

GK: Chituru Odunze: I am not going to give you a scouting report on the third-string goalkeeper. Just know that he is huge, he is from Raleigh, he is a US-Canadian dual-national and he’s with Leicester City playing in the youth ranks these days.


My Starting XI:

Gioacchini

WeahReyna

Musah/MCKennie

Adams

Robinson/Brooks/Richards/Dest

Steffan

A few notes:

  • Remember, this represents just one of the US shapes/formations.
  • Weah hasn’t been playing much for Lille, and when he has been out there it’s often been as a forward. I still want to see him as an inverted winger here even if he can only go 60 minutes. I also refuse to worry about his playing time with Lille until February at the earliest. Give him time.
  • Antonee Robinson is very north-south, while Sergino Dest very much isn’t. Both guys are “attack first” fullbacks, and there is a danger that having them both out there will cause the US to become unbalanced. Figuring out if that is in fact true is what friendlies are for.
  • I think Musah starts even though Lletget was a late call-up, but I won’t lose my mind if Lletget starts and Musah comes off the bench for 20 or 30 minutes. At this point we’ve got to trust Berhalter’s ability to recruit, right?
  • There is no way John Brooks plays both games. I expect him for one and Tim Ream for the other.
  • I don’t actually care which of Richards or Matt Miazga get whichever minutes.
  • My guess is that Ethan Horvath will get one of these games, as Steffen no longer has work permit issues to worry about.

It’s been too long. Enjoy the show, everyone.

USA vs. Wales, 2020 Friendly live stream: Time, TV schedule and lineups

The USMNT is back in action for the first time since February.

By Brendan Joseph  Nov 12, 2020, 6:01am PSTSHAREAll sharing options

After an extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic, international soccer is back in full effect. The United States men’s national team has convened in Europe for a pair of friendlies. The first is against hosts Wales at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium.Manager Gregg Berhalter called in a strong 24-player squad mainly comprised of talents based in Europe. There are several exciting names that fans have been clamoring to see play together, with Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest, and John Brooks leading the way. Compelling newcomers Johnny Cardoso, Yunus Musah, Sebastian Soto, Konrad de la Fuente, Nicholas Gioacchini, and Giovanni Reyna were included and should make their debut at some point during the next two matches.The U.S. will be without star player Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea attacker left camp due to a hamstring injury, a recurring issue this year. Striker Josh Sargent was also not included in the roster. Werder Bremen opted to not grant his release due to quarantine in Germany.

These friendlies represent a chance for the team to come together and craft an identity before the start of 2022 World Cup Qualifying. “I want to see us be very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball,” Berhalter told USSoccer.com. “We have enough speed in the back to play a higher line and I’d like our team to be more compact when we’re pressing. I think we should be very aggressive offensively, getting behind the opponent and putting them on their heels… It’s just about getting them on the field, playing together and comfortable with each other.”Wales is gearing up for the final two matches of the UEFA Nations League against Ireland (November 15th) and Finland (November 18th). Interim manager Rob Page leads a 27-player roster featuring notable talents such as Gareth Bale, Ben Davies, and Tom Lawrence. The Dragons are currently ranked 20th in the world and have qualified for the upcoming European Championship scheduled to be played next summer.

 

Christian Pulisic leaving United States camp, Gio Reyna in line for debut

2:31 PM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States midfielder Christian Pulisic will not play in Thursday’s friendly against Wales, and will leave camp on Wednesday night as he recuperates from a hamstring injury, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced.

The Chelsea midfielder had always been unlikely to play in the match after sustaining the injury while warming up prior to his club’s match against Burnley on Oct. 31, and later suffered a setback in training.

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– Marsden: Dest talks Barca, U.S. team ambitions

But U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter was eager to see Pulisic in person, having not had his first choice group together in over a year. Pulisic arrived in camp, which is being held in Cardiff, Wales, last weekend.”[Pulisic] had a great three or four days with the team,” Berhalter said on a Zoom call with reporters. “He was able to get treated, and able to be with the guys, connect with the staff again. It was great to see him. Unfortunately, he won’t be taking part in the match.”Pulisic’s departure means he will miss out on the likely debut of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna — son of former U.S. captain Claudio — as well as the returns of Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie and RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams. This quartet of players is expected to form the core of the side for years to come.”[Pulisic] is a player that we’re certainly going to miss, and with his quality we wish we could have him on the field, but that’s not going to happen,” said Berhalter.For his part, the 17-year-old Reyna said he doesn’t plan to alter his game in Pulisic’s absence.”I think I just have to play my game like always try to do, like I’ve done with Dortmund so far,” Reyna said, “I think if I can emulate what I did at Dortmund so far this season here, I think I can be successful here too.”Of course. I’m, we’re gonna miss Christian, obviously. He’s such a good player and he always offers so much for us. It’s unfortunate that he can’t play, but I think for me, it was always just trying to help the team get involved and obviously try to score goals in the system.”Chelsea manager Frank Lampard previously called Pulisic’s hamstring injury “very, very minor.” Pulisic last played on Oct. 28, when he scored a 90th-minute goal in a 4-0 Champions League group stage win against Krasnodar.He has no goals in three Premier League games this season after tallying nine goals and four assists in 25 matches in his debut campaign with Chelsea in 2019-20.Pulisic has not played for the U.S. since October, 2019. The next FIFA international window is next March.

USMNT has brighter future than Mexico, says Pumas’ Saucedo

6:00 PM ETTom MarshallMexico correspondent

Pumas and United States Under-23 international winger Sebastian Saucedo says the USMNT has a brighter future than Mexico due to the number of players at big European clubs, and added that he believes players based in Liga MX have been undervalued by U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff.The 23-year-old dual Mexico-United States national said he talks regularly with Pumas teammates and Mexico internationals such as Johan Vasquez about the promising generation of young players in the United States setup. He said that Mexico is held back by Liga MX clubs asking for inflated prices for young players, and thinks the United States has the advantage moving forward.

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“There are a lot of really good players in Mexico, but the reality is what we talked about,” Saucedo said in an interview with ESPN’s Ahora o Nunca. “I think [Chivas striker Jose Juan] Macias talked about [Mexican clubs] sell[ing] very high. It’s a difficult issue in Mexico because they deserve to go to Europe. [Macias] is right because the thing is that in MLS they sell them cheaper to give them projection in Europe, that’s where the USMNT wins. I see a better future for the USMNT for the players that are playing in JuventusChelsea, Leipzig …”

gap in quality with Liga MX, Saucedo said he sees it “closing in the future,” but that Mexico’s first division continues to get stronger.

The former Real Salt Lake player recently returned to training after injury and is focused on making an impact for title-chasing Pumas. However, he is pessimistic about getting future opportunities to play for the United States’ senior team.

“The U.S. national team hasn’t called me up and I’m focused on the Under-23s,” said Saucedo. “Hopefully [the] Tokyo [Olympics] happen, but I’m more focused on my club than the national team because I don’t think the opportunities will come here in Mexico.””There are players in Europe that are playing and they are called just because they play in Europe,” he continued. “They under-appreciate the Mexican league. The Mexican league has spectacular players that are called up to their national teams. And it seems a little unjust.”Saucedo played for the U.S. U20s at the 2017 World Cup alongside the likes of RB Leipzig‘s Tyler Adams and Werder Bremen‘s Josh Sargent and was in the frame to be involved for the U23s at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying event in Guadalajara last March, until it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.But a full national team call is yet to come for Saucedo, who became a regular starter for Pumas in his first season in Mexico.”It’s a little bit frustrating,” he said. “There are players that deserve to be in the national team and there are others that don’t. That’s football.”The California-born Saucedo said the last contact he’s had with the full U.S. national team was after he signed for Pumas early in 2020.”The last time someone called was Gregg Berhalter in January when I arrived at Pumas, but I think that maybe he thought I was coming here for the Mexican national team and an opportunity [with El Tri],” said Saucedo. “Pumas is a huge team that has Mexican national team players and he maybe thought that my decision would be [to go with] Mexico. I never had the intention to come for the Mexican national team.”

How USMNT prospect Johnny Cardoso will complement Pulisic and Reyna in midfield

Nov 9, 2020Tim VickerySouth America correspondent

As their most recent squad announcement for this month’s matches against Wales and Panama showed, the United States men’s national team has some exciting individual talents coming through. With an average age of 21 years, 10 months, the likes of Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna will take the headlines, but a team is not made of glamour alone and the good news is that a midfielder from Brazil is also emerging who can set the stage for the more attacking players to succeed.Joao Lucas de Souza Cardoso was born in Denville, New Jersey, where his Brazilian parents ran a porcelain business. When their son was only 3 months old, they went back home to Criciuma in the south of Brazil, though Joao Lucas was never allowed to forget his North American roots. When he showed promise at football, he was nicknamed “Johnny.”

Now 19-year-old Johnny Cardoso has become the first player in 24 years to earn a call-up to the U.S. while playing for a club outside North America or Europe. (Cobi Jones last did it, during the 1996 CONCACAF Gold Cup while playing for Vasco da Gama.) A year ago, Cardoso was named to the roster for the United States U23 team for the first time for a camp in Miami and now he’s in the big leagues.

Much of the credit for this recognition has to go to Eduardo Coudet, his club coach at Internacional, in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. An Argentine, Coudet is in his first year in charge of the club and when he took over he was eager to have a look at the products of Inter’s much-praised youth ranks. The youngster who caught his eye was Cardoso — not one of the players the local media had considered among the most likely future stars, but now the attraction is clear.

Coudet was a midfielder with a top-level career that was solid rather than stunning. He had a few games with Celta Vigo in Spain, but his best football was played in Argentina with Rosario Central and River Plate, before he ended his playing days in Mexico and then with Philadelphia Union and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He was not exceptionally quick or skillful, he had no outstanding talents, but he understood the game and could make a midfield tick by doing the simple things at the right time. Clearly, Coudet saw some of those qualities in Cardoso.

Cardoso has been with Inter since 2014. He began as an attacking midfielder and then played with some success as a striker, but on his way through the youth ranks he was transformed into a deep-lying midfielder precisely because of his ability to understand what to do and when to do it. Coudet, then, saw a player who was not blessed with excess pace but was quick on the turn, quick to make the pass, quick to move into position to receive. Cardoso is strong enough to take care of himself in a crowded midfield and he can keep the ball moving, which keeps his team ticking over.

September was his best month so far and he started a number of big games for Inter. Coudet uses his defensive midfielder almost as a third center back, and though Carsoso has had some experience in this role, most of his appearances have come higher up the field, where Coudet values the calm maturity of his play. Cardoso has taken just a few months to go from being just one more of the club’s youth products to a star of the future.

After an injury spell, he is being eased back into contention, and started Wednesday night’s 2-1 win against Atletico Goianiense in the Copa do Brasil. There is plenty of competition for places in the Inter midfield, and he is unlikely to start many games when the team is at full strength, but the club is fighting on three fronts: Inter is top of the league and still alive in both the Copa Libertadores and the domestic cup. The matches are coming thick and fast, and there will be chances for fringe players.The hope is, for club and country, that Cardoso can grow into something much more than a fringe player.

The USMNT Picks Up the Pieces After a Long Time Away

With 10 uncapped players and established stars who haven’t been in camp for a year or more, there’s a re-immersion process of sorts for the U.S. men’s national team in order to achieve the results and product its coach desires.

BRIAN STRAUSNOV 10, 2020

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You play to win the game, sure. But sometimes, the game(s) you’re trying to win aren’t necessarily being played that day.The numbers on the scoreboard were rough—embarrassing, even. They read Mexico 3, USA 0 that day at MetLife Stadium in northern New Jersey. It was September 2019, and the U.S. national team had suffered its worst loss to El Tri in a decade. Mexico was stocked with first-choice stars that night and the USA’s lineup was a mixed bag. But excuses typically aren’t tolerated in rivalry games. So coming on the heels of a defeat in the Concacaf Gold Cup final, the result elicited frustration and criticism from fans.USA coach Gregg Berhalter knew that was coming.“I see where the narrative is going now,” he said at his postgame press conference.But for Berhalter, there was more to the narrative than the scoreboard. There were other numbers—more granular, nuanced numbers—that were less about the outcome of one game than about his long-term goal of building a team that was more comfortable with the ball. Berhalter knew El Tri would press. So he challenged his team to play through it, to keep and rotate the ball and to find teammates in the spaces the pressing Mexicans vacated. When it failed, the Americans tried again. And when Berhalter looked at the postgame analytics—figures associated with possession, how many pass attempts and touches the USA had in certain areas of the field, etc.—he saw the foundation of a structure he was trying to build.The scoreboard was important. Those other numbers were, too.“It’s a delicate thing, because I know people want us to win. I understand that. I’m not foolish,” he told Sports Illustrated. “But we also have a process we have to go through. We have to do this if we want to get to where we want to get to.”It’s a difficult thing to introduce a new generation of players to international soccer, to get them to play the game a bit differently than their U.S. predecessors—to “disorganize the opponent with the ball”—and to do it all during the very intermittent and fractured schedule that governs national teams even in normal times.Berhalter had been a club coach. He’d been accustomed to immersing his players in daily details, building chemistry and partnerships and patterns through repetition and routine. Now he was trying to build a core and a system of play with only a few days of face time per month, at best. He felt it was time for the USA to play differently. He felt it was worth the effort.“It’s the hardest thing in the world,” Christian Pulisic said moments after the Mexico game. “It’s hard to teach a real system and be very specific with it. It’s not easy.”Pulisic continued, “Of course there’s frustration when you lose 3–0. There’s always frustrations. But we have a style of play that we’re setting out and we’re still trying to execute and obviously today we didn’t pull it off at all times. But there were a few good moments, and that’s all we can take from it and just try to continue to learn.”Berhalter and the Americans ground out a 1–1 draw with Uruguay a few days later and then dispersed, as national teams do. And they’ve played only five games since—five games in 14 months. Thanks to the pandemic, there’s been almost no time to build on what was established last fall. Berhalter’s project was, at least superficially, put on extended pause. And during that time, even more young, talented Americans began knocking on the senior-team door. When the manager announced his 24-man team for this month’s long-awaited friendlies against Wales (Thursday) and Panama (Nov. 16), it included 10 uncapped players.

None of those players will have had the opportunity to work on those patterns and partnerships with their new U.S. teammates. Other, more seasoned (but still youthful) internationals are back together for the first time in a year. And not only do they have only a couple days to train fully before facing Wales in Swansea, they’re all quickly approaching a 2021 stretch in which the USA has a Gold Cup and the start of World Cup qualifying to negotiate.

Berhalter’s plan always was going to take time. And time has taken on new meaning in 2020.

Speaking to reporters from Wales on Monday, Berhalter said that despite the delays and time spent apart, he felt there was a core in place that has grasped the way he wants to play. Pulisic, midfielder Weston McKennie, defender Tim Ream and goalkeeper Zack Steffen all were capped at least 10 times last year, while John Brooks, Reggie Cannon, Sergiño Dest, Sebastian Lletget, Matt Miazga and Josh Sargent made multiple starts.

Just as crucially, time together doesn’t end when camps disperse. Berhalter and his staff stay in constant contact with their players, talking soccer and even going over footage of their club games. For those near the surface of the player pool, Berhalter’s system should be well understood by this point. He now feels it’s time to deepen that pool, owing to the emergence of new talent and the busy year ahead.

“When we have our core together, I think it’s a team that’s made progress. I think now’s a great time to look at some new players, to look at some of the younger guys who’ve been doing a great job with their club teams. And so that’s what we’re using this camp for,” Berhalter said Monday.

“Admittedly, [building comfort and chemistry] is something I think about also,” he continued. “In this [Wales] game, it’s going to be probably six or seven guys that are on the field for the first time playing together. So it will be a new experience. But I think when you look at the core, and the players we were able to influence over the last 18 months, that’s definitely a group that is up to speed.”

There’s even the possibility of additional wrinkles, he revealed, as he looks to use the squad’s youth and athleticism to his advantage.

“It’s about taking advantage of the quality that we heave in the team, and what I mean is, are there times where we can be more aggressive pressing? I think I was very comfortable with a mid-block 4-4-2 before. We’ve talked about the transition from that into more of a 4-3-3 defending. There’s no secret on that, and it’s based on the athletes that we have and the quality that we have,” he said.

“It won’t change much in terms of us wanting to control the ball. It won’t change much in terms of us wanting to use the ball to create goal-scoring opportunities, and we have guys that can do it. For me, it’s just adding another layer to our group.”

If there’s anyone who might feel like there’s considerable catch-up to do, it’s Tyler Adams. The 21-year-old New Yorker is certainly considered part of Berhalter’s core. He’s a rising star in defensive midfield at RB Leipzig and has big-game, UEFA Champions League experience. But Adams missed last year’s Gold Cup and Concacaf Nations League games with injuries and hasn’t played for the USA since March 2019. And he played then, in a friendly against Ecuador, as a right back.

But Adams explained that his work as a defensive midfielder in Leipzig and his frequent conversations with the U.S. coach leave him level with almost everyone else heading into this week.

“I would say everyone’s quite behind, because we’ve had eight months off to a pandemic. But other than that, it’s just about coming in and taking as much information in as possible,” Adams said.

Berhalter maintained steady contact with Adams during his injury layoff and the pandemic pause.

“He’s really helped me through a lot of different things, a lot of different variables. We’ve talked football and, you know, what my role in the team will be like,” Adams said. “He’s also been able to help me think about the game in a different way as well. He has a similar style to the way [Leipzig coach] Julian Nagelsmann plays, so my development under Julian has allowed me to make the understanding of my game evolve here as well. That’s been really good. [Berhalter] has a lot of bright ideas, and I’m just hoping we can now implement them in the game scenarios and just continue to progress.”

Training time isn’t the only time that Berhalter and staff can use to implement their system. They hold meetings with players, both individually and collectively, and had iPads filled with select video clips waiting for the players when they arrived. Time together may be brief, but it does seem to be immersive. The key will be building at the right rate toward next year, accepting scheduling quirks beyond their control and maintaining realistic expectations for a group featuring many new faces. World Cup qualifying kicks off next September. That’s when you really play to win.

“Moving forward, we obviously need to progress day by day,” Adams said. “It’s different when you have guys that played [Sunday]. They’ll only train twice before the first friendly and then we won’t be able to train that much time between this friendly and the next one [against Panama].

“For myself, with a lot of young guys, we’re going to have to really take as much information in as possible,” Adams continued. “With how the schedule looks moving forward and what competitive games [we have], we know we have to progress rather quickly, because a lot of the guys in this group that are here can play such a key factor going forward.”

The schedule is tight, but it also offers a slight reprieve. World Cup qualifying originally was supposed to begin two months ago. So while Berhalter and his staff lost nearly a year in on-field development time, they’ll get a chunk of that back in next year’s Nations League and Gold Cup matches.

“I have a lot of hope for this group of players. I believe in this group of players and I think as they continue to gain experience for both their clubs and country, they’re going to continue to grow and be fantastic players,” Berhalter said. “But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to realize that there are 10 players in camp that are in the full national team for the first time and it’s going to take development. There’s no question about that.”

UEFA Nations League W2W4: Heavyweight group deciders as COVID and injuries take toll

4:50 AM ETTom HamiltonSenior Writer

The climax of the UEFA Nations League is here — stream LIVE on ESPN+ (U.S. only) — with some of the continent’s biggest teams fighting for a place in the finals in October 2021, as well as preferable seeding ahead of the World Cup 2022 qualifying draw.This year, preparations have been disrupted by COVID-19 — due to both the virus and players battling an intense fixture pile-up, a number of Europe’s best talents are unavailable. Finally, in this most turbulent of years, there is a growing unease around one of Europe’s most successful nations, while others feel that this is the right time to bring in some exciting young talent.Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the final two rounds of Nations League group play.

COVID chaos

The build-up to the Nations League has been a tangle of logistics, biosecure bubbles, COVID-19 testing and load management. But also muddying the waters are the differing quarantine rules from country to country, with the new restrictions on Denmark proving particularly taxing. The UK government has banned all travel from Denmark by non-UK citizens and has not offered an exemption for elite athletes. So, with Iceland playing Denmark on Sunday, Iceland’s team, as things stand, will not be permitted to travel to the UK to face England at Wembley on Wednesday, leaving the two countries scrambling to find a neutral base for their game.

This is also affecting the Denmark squad with neither Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, nor Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard and Mathias Jensen, released for international duty.

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COVID-19 has also put a direct dent in the Denmark squad with Hoffenheim’s Robert Skov and a physio testing positive, while Belgium captain Eden Hazard has too and will miss out this week. Germany will be without Niklas SuleKai Havertz and Emre Can while striker Eden Dzeko will be absent for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Then there is Italy. Manager Roberto Mancini, who has tested positive, named a bloated 41-man squad for their three matches — one friendly against Estonia and Nations League games against Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina — given the upheaval at home due to the pandemic, that saw six Serie A clubs recently report positive results.

Injury toll

With a number of Europe’s best players sidelined through injury, club managers will be keeping their fingers crossed that their stars return home unscathed after three bruising games in seven days. England are already sweating on Marcus Rashford‘s fitness after he injured his shoulder against EvertonTrent Alexander-Arnold will miss out following his calf injury against Manchester City on Sunday and Joe Gomez is facing an extended period on the sidelines after injuring his knee in training Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Spain are without Barcelona‘s Ansu Fati following a knee injury that’s expected to keep him out for four months, and Germany star Joshua Kimmich is unavailable until January with a knee injury he picked up against Borussia Dortmund.

The Netherlands sent Steven Bergwijn back to Spurs after fitness tests, and Virgil van Dijk is a long-term absentee; Nathan Ake might be sidelined for weeks after suffering a muscle injury in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw vs. Spain. And Belgium will be without Timothy CastagneLeandro Trossard and Yannick Carrasco.

Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo available despite the forward picking up an ankle knock at the weekend — he scored once against Andorra in Wednesday’s 7-0 romp after coming on as a half-time sub — but the list of those on the sidelines is mounting up, much to the anger of their clubs.

Managers are absolutely fuming about the relentless fixture list. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called the Premier League schedule “an absolute shambles” and said the authorities had set his team up to “fail” ahead of their win at Everton on Saturday. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp has previously been critical of the international break and the lack of rest time for the players, while Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho says when his players leave for national duty, “I’m never expecting good things, I’m only expecting negative things. Never good things.”

Meanwhile, national team bosses have named larger squads not just to cope with any COVID-19 complications, but also to juggle their options. “It is important that we have enough players we can count on,” was Bosnia and Herzegovina boss Dusan Bajevic’s message after picking 32 players, but France manager Didier Deschamps has played down any concerns about the players hitting a wall.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any risk of burnout, but fitness is something that needs to be taken into account,” Deschamps said. “These past weeks, the players played in nine matches: one every three days, including the European competitions. I can’t say I’m not relieved when I see one of my internationals start on the bench for his club!”

Crunch matches for European giants

We are at the business end of the Nations League group stage, so pool matches are effectively “play-off games” for spots in the semifinals, and for promotion/relegation. Portugal-France in Group 3 on Saturday in Lisbon (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+) is a perfect example. Portugal are seeking to defend their Nations League crown and have named a squad of 25 players, with 37-year-old Pepe absent through injury.

“We can take the opportunity to look at players from our extended squad,” Portugal boss Fernando Santos said, with one eye on the future. “[Potential debutants] Paulinho and Pedro Neto are part of that list of 40 or 50 players that I think are all very good. There are none of them that I do not trust or do not have quality.”

Portugal and France face off on Saturday in a likely group-deciding match in Nations League Group A. Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

On the other side of the ledger, France’s form is very hard to gauge, especially after a shock 2-0 friendly defeat to Finland on Wednesday. Deschamps has tried various different formations — 4-3-3, playing three at the back, a 4-4-2 diamond — so you sense he’s still testing the water for his best mix ahead of next summer’s Euros. There are questions over Kylian Mbappe‘s fitness due to a hamstring injury, while Benjamin Pavard and Presnel Kimpembe are also doubts.

Deschamps has also spoken out about Paul Pogba‘s situation at Manchester United, saying “he cannot be happy, neither with his playing time, nor with his positioning.”

This is also playing out against a backdrop of angst regarding the draw for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. The top 10 European sides in the FIFA World Ranking will be seeded for the draw next month. Belgium, France, England, Portugal, Spain, and Croatia are all guaranteed Pot 1 seeds, but a bad week for Italy, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, alongside a good week for Switzerland or Poland, could cause one of the more traditional European superpowers to face an awkward route to Qatar 2022 with only the group winners guaranteed to qualify.

Italy (Group 1) are on an unbeaten run of 20 games and Mancini was in bullish form ahead of round batch of matches, which started with a 4-0 friendly win over Estonia on Wednesday. “Poland are ahead of us in the standings? We’ll win against Poland and we’ll top our group,” he said.

Denmark’s preparations are up in the air due to COVID-19, and the Netherlands have made an average start to life under Frank de Boer. The Oranje are in real danger of missing out on a spot in the semifinals, drawing 1-1 with Italy last time out, while De Boer has also overseen a 0-0 draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina and a 1-0 defeat to Mexico. Their buildup has been disrupted by Bergwijn’s unavailability, and Mohamed Ihattaren pulled out with an illness.

If Netherlands lose to Bosnia, and Poland beat Italy, then the meeting of the Dutch and the Poles next week is effectively a shootout for a World Cup qualifying draw seeding spot.

And all is not well with Germany (Group 4). There are dark clouds shrouding the national team, with general manager Oliver Bierhoff lashing out at the media earlier in the week, asking them to support the national team instead of being overly critical. He admits there is a growing gulf in relations between the country and national team, but while Bierhoff says he believes this is mostly down to the 2018 World Cup disaster, there’s also a feeling the national side values financial spreadsheets and projections above everything else.

There is also a growing clamour for Germany to call up previously discarded veterans Thomas MullerJerome Boateng and Mats Hummels. They have been in outstanding form and Boateng and Hummels could solve Germany’s problems in defence. Despite that, a comeback has been ruled out by manager Joachim Low and Bierhoff. If they slip up against Ukraine on Saturday, their place among the World Cup seeds could be in real doubt.

Germany’s match against Spain on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+) is a shootout for a spot in the semifinals, and there are also plenty of questions around Luis Enrique’s side. Spain suffered a poor loss to Ukraine last time out and there has been plenty of chopping and changing in the squad.

Who is Spain’s No. 1 goalkeeper? Who is best placed to partner Sergio Ramos in defence? And who will score up front? It looks likely David De Gea will remain between the posts ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga and Unai SimonPau Torres will play alongside Ramos, while they have called up a rejuvenated Alvaro Morata to answer their issues up front. “Since [Alvaro] Morata returned to Juventus, he is a different player both in attack and in defence,” Luis Enrique said. Let’s hope he manages to stay onside.

And in Group 2, favourites Belgium welcome England to Leuven on Sunday (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+) — after the game was moved from Brussels due to the city’s 10 p.m. curfew. England have to win the game to stay in contention for a place in the finals for the second successive edition. But in the back of the players’ minds is the physical toll of this run of fixtures.

“It’s all too much, not just for me,” winger Thorgan Hazard said. “Champions League, Bundesliga, Nations League … I don’t want to complain too much because we have to do our job, but it is a lot.

“Well, here at the Red Devils, everyone will get playing time. The national coach has selected many players. Playing them in all three matches for 90 minutes would be difficult. The players will not burn themselves out. Our coaches also ask us to be careful, not to risk too much.”

New faces

With all the absentees and upheaval, the international window gives managers the chance to introduce some youngsters. Borussia Monchengladbach‘s Marcus Thuram, 23, is looking to follow in his father Lilian’s footsteps for France. He has been superb for Gladbach this season, with three goals and five assists in 11 matches, and is one of two uncapped players in Deschamps’ squad — 27-year-old Monaco defender Ruben Aguilar being the other.

Elsewhere, England could hand a debut to 17-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham, called up following the withdrawal of Southampton‘s James Ward-Prowse. Bellingham joined Borussia Dortmund in the summer and has made 11 appearances to date, including 30 minutes off the bench against Bayern Munich at the weekend. If he makes his debut, the incredibly talented teenager will become the third-youngest England player in history after Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney.

There are also potential debuts for exciting right-back Bote Baku for Germany, with uncapped defensive duo Philipp Max and Felix Uduokhai also named. Meanwhile, Belgium have selected Hertha Berlin striker Dodi Lukebakio in their squad.

Spain have Atletico Madrid‘s midfielder/forward Marcos Llorente in the party, while there is a recall for Arsenal‘s Hector Bellerin — hoping to make his first appearance since 2016. Italy have a host of potential debutants with Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan), Davide Calabria (AC Milan), Gian Marco Ferrari (Sassuolo), Luca Pellegrini (Genoa), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Mattia Zaccagni (Hellas Verona) and Pietro Pellegri (Monaco) all in the squad.

Coatesville’s Zack Steffen has it all at Manchester City, except the one thing he needs most

Steffen has played just two games for City this season, and they were both in September. He’s likely to start for the U.S. men’s national team in its friendlies Friday and next Monday.

Jonathan TannenwaldSTAFF WRITER

Zack Steffen has just about everything a soccer player could want.He’s part of one of the world’s biggest clubs, England’s Manchester City. The training facility is among the world’s most lavish, bankrolled by billionaire owners from the United Arab Emirates. His teammates include world superstars Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Agüero. The coaching staff is led by Pep Guardiola, one of the game’s all-time philosophers and winners.There are even Americans to socialize with, since Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle are playing for City’s women’s team this season. They’re planning to all have Thanksgiving dinner together.But there’s one big thing that Steffen currently lacks: regular playing time.He knew it might happen when he joined the English superpower last July. At first, Steffen was far enough down the depth chart that it made sense to loan him to Germany’s Fortuna Düsseldorf last season. But now he’s the No. 2 to starter Ederson. That means he’s on the bench a lot.The Coatesville native has played just two games for City since coming back from Germany. Both have been in the EFL Cup, a tournament that big English clubs treat as an afterthought. It’s understandable, and it might even be OK if not for the fact that Steffen was out injured for the second half of the last Bundesliga season. His City debut on Sept. 24 was his first game action since last Dec. 22. He suffered a patellar tendon injury after that, then suffered a knee ligament injury in late April.

» READ MORE: Zack Steffen wins Manchester City debut

On Thursday, Steffen is expected to play for the U.S. national team for the first time since October of last year. The Americans visit Wales for a friendly in the program’s first game since February, with a squad that is almost entirely European-based. The following Monday, they face Concacaf rival Panama on neutral turf in Austria. (Both games are 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs, televised on FS1, UniMás and TUDN.)Some time next year, World Cup qualifying will start and the games will count for real. And if Steffen is still on City’s bench, the question he faced in a slew of forms during a transcontinental Zoom call Wednesday will keep getting asked.How can he be in top shape for the national team if he isn’t playing for his club?There’s an obvious answer: Manchester City practices at a higher level than many teams play games at. And it was the answer Steffen gave with his trademark calm and politeness.“The talent that we have at that club has already made me a better keeper,” he said. “Their goalie coach is really detailed and is very eager to make me a better goalkeeper. And then just working with those guys day in and day out, the training, the level of intensity, and skill, and talent, and all that, everything that goes into it, I feel myself growing.”

» READ MORE: The Union’s Brenden Aaronson is the latest Philly-area native to move to Europe

Guardiola’s system is especially demanding of players, laid out down to the smallest details of how to pass and how to defend. Although he has been a manager for 13 years, only a small fraction of the world’s players have learned his ways firsthand.“It’s awesome to be on the inside and really see how he works day to day,” Steffen said. “He has a good balance of being focused and intense, but with that he brings humor, and he brings just his genuineness, and just kindness.”But there’s still nothing quite like a live game, and Steffen hasn’t played in one since Sept. 30.“Obviously, I do want to get games, They’re most important, and I want to be out on the field,” he said. “I’ll keep working hard and keep pushing those guys in front of me, and they’ll keep pushing me.”Steffen said that he has fully recovered physically from the knee injury. But the mental side of the game has needed some work too.“City has given me a lot of confidence to go back out on the field,” he said, taking time to again specifically praise the goalkeeper coaches. “Each day, the keeper coach, the keepers, the players, they’re pushing me to get better, and I feel like I’m in that process. I’m feeling good and feeling better each and every day, each and every week. And just being around those high level players has made me better — and has made me a more confident player as well.”

U.S. roster for November friendlies

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, Belgium), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City, England), Zack Steffen (Manchester City, England)

Defenders (7): John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany), Reggie Cannon (Boavista, Portugal), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona, Spain), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht, Belgium), Tim Ream (Fulham, England), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich, Germany), Antonee Robinson (Fulham, England)

Midfielders (7): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, Germany), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional, Brazil), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Sebastian Lletget (Los Angeles Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus, Italy), Yunus Musah (Valencia, Spain), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton, England)

Forwards (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona, Spain), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen, France), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen, Netherlands), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Sebastian Soto (Telstar, Netherlands), Tim Weah (Lille, France)

Notes: Christian Pulisic was part of this week’s training camp, but left Wednesday to deal with a hamstring injury that’s been bothering him all season. Josh Sargent was also initially on the roster, but forced to withdraw because of local government coronavirus regulations affecting his club team, Germany’s Werder Bremen. Lletget was called in to replace him. No other MLS players were called in, to avoid subjecting those preparing for the playoffs to the league’s quarantine mandate for players returning to the U.S. from abroad.Jonathan Tannenwald

11/06/20 – Champs League Match Day 3, EPL Big Games, US Men play Wed/Nov 16 2:45 pm FS1, International Break next week

Games this Week on TV

Early morning Sat on NBCSN as Everto and Man United start things at 7:30 am.  Chelsea with Pulisic still injured will travel to Sheffield United for a 12:30 Sat 12:30 pm game.  Of course also at 12:30 on ESPN +  Is the premier game in the German Bundesliga Bayern Munich and American defender Chris Richards traveling to Dortmund and American Gio Reyna in a battle for the top spot in Germany.   Of course the best EPL game of the weekend is pay to watch on the Peacock as the past two EPL champs Man City faces Liverpool faces at 9 am  followed by Fulham vs Arsenal at 2:!5 pm.  Sunday early AM gives us Lazio hosting Juventus and American Aaron McKinney at 6:30 am on ESPN2, followed by West Brom vs 2nd place Tottenham on NBCSN.  Finally at 3 pm on beIN Sport Sunday – Valencia and potential US player Yunus Musah (see below) play Real Madrid.  Sunday is MLS final day of play – Decision day on ESPN+ with 2 spots in the East, the top 2 seeds in the East and playoff positioning all in play still, 1 game on network as LAFC hosts Portland at 3:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.   Zlatan amazing bike for AC Milan

USA Friendly’s Wed 2:45 FS1 vs Wales/Mon 2:45 vs Panama FS1

So huge excitement for the upcoming friendly’s with an almost entirely European group of players – many of them under the age of 23.  In fact the average age is just over 22 for this group that will take on Wales and Garreth Bale.  Doubtful that Christian Pulisic will play – but first timers Gio Reyna of Dortmund, Konrad de la Fuente from Barcelona and Sebasatian Soto of Telstar – all U20 WC players for the US should excite folks.  Also American born 18 YO winger Yunus Musah starting now at Valencia, a kid born in New York who grew up in England, has accepted the invite to check out how the US does things after representing England at the youth level.  My thoughts for the Wales game start

My 11

Weah

Lletget, Reyna, Yunus Musah

Adams, McKinney

Robinson, Brooks, Richards, Dest

Steffan

The USMNT roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista FC), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Antonee Robinson (Fulham)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton)

FORWARDS (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Tim Weah (Lille),

Champions League Group Stage Matchday 3 Results

Champions League only had 1 marquet matchup this week with RB Leipzig squeezing by an injured PSG 2-1 as Adams subbed on to help protect the lead in the 75th minute.  Dest helped Barcelona claim a 2-1 vs Dynamo Keiv, while Gio Reyna started and helped Dortmund to a 3-0 win over Brugge a win that moved them to the top of the table.  Champs League Standings

USL Championships Cancelled

Sure was interesting to see both USL Championship games be cancelled this past weekend.  The Tampa Bay Rowdies were to host the Phoenix Rising Sunday night on ESPN before a COVID Outbreak hit the Rowdies.  I would understand a postponement but just cancelling the final after you played the adjusted season.  If player safety was the concern you shouldn’t have played this season at all.  But you did – you should end the season with a Champion – even if you have to delay the game by two weeks to do it.  Just one man’s opinion.

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Nov 6 

7:30 am NBCSN                  Everton vs Man United 

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

10 am beIN Sport                 Barcelona (Dest)  vs Real Bettis 

10 am NBCSN                      Cyrstal Palace vs

12:30 pm NBC                  Sheffield United vs Chelseas (no Pulisic) 

12:30 pm  ESppn+            Dortmund (Reyna) vs Bayern Munich (Richards) 

3 pm beiN Sport                   PSG vs Rennes

Sun, Nov 7 

6:30 am ESPN2                  Lazio vs Juventus            

7 am NBCSN                                      West Brom vs Tottenham 

9 am NBCSN                        Leicester City vs Wolves

9 am ESPN+                         Atalanta vs Inter

10:15 am beIN sport             Real Sociadad vs Granada (Sp)

11:30 am Peacock                              Man City vs Liverpool

2:15 pm Peacock                 Arsenal vs Aston Villa

3pm beIN Sport                   Valencia vs Real Madrid

Wed, Nov 12

2:45 pm FS1                      USA vs Wales

USA Friendly’s Wed 2:45 FS1 vs Wales/Mon 2:45 vs Panama FS1

How USMNT’s November Camp Pieces May All Fit Together – Avi Creditor SI
Berhalter excited by USMNT youngsters; talks Musah, Pulisic

Berhalter looks to USMNT’s future with exciting young squad  23hJeff Carlisle

USMNT to play Panama in Austria on November 16th
USMNT news: Werder Bremen won’t release Sargent due to COVID rules

Pulisic remains out injured for Chelsea

4 US Players Help Teams win in UCL  

 

MLS

Doyle: What I’m keeping an eye on for Decision Day

Boehm: Why home-field advantage still matters in these playoffs

How will it go down? Game-by-game predictions for Decision DayDecision Day: What’s at stake in the final week of the regular season

Key Races in MLS Final Day

Playoff scenarios: All the permutations for Decision Day

Playoffs on the line for Miami vs. FCC: “There’s massive pressure”

 

EPL


Manchester City – Liverpool: How to watch, team news, start time, odds, prediction

Man City face Liverpool showdown, Solskjaer under fire

Three talking points from the Premier League

Solskjaer’s defence is shaky as future hangs in the balance

Jota’s red-hot start puts Firmino under pressure

Arteta ‘proud’ as Arsenal take big step forward

Fulham beat West Brom to earn first win this season

No home comforts for Man Utd in Arsenal defeat, Bale send Spurs second

Relief, happiness as Bale is Tottenham’s match-winner again


NBC Sports Premier League schedule

·         

·        CHAMPIONS & EUROPA League  
PSG coach Tuchel dismisses speculation over future after Champions League loss to Leipzig
Barca, Juve win in Champions League as woeful Man Utd beaten
Champions League wrap: Juve wins big, Barcelona outlasts 12-save teen goalkeeper
Europa League wrap: 10-man Benfica stuns Rangers; Celtic, Milan thumped
UEL: Decisive wins for Arsenal, Spurs, Leicester City 

 

EUROPE

Barcelona’s struggles, Silva, Zlatan: European football talking points
Ronaldo to make Portugal return against France, Croatia

FIFA asked to review controversial handball rule, UEFA confirm

Lewandowski, Haaland go head-to-head in Bayern, Dortmund showdown

Klassiker, Serie A and a weakened PSG – what to look out for in Europe this weekend

Decision Day presented by AT&T: Shield, Golden Boot and playoff places come down to final day

November 2, 202012:36AM EST

Ian Nicholas QuillenContributor https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.96fd96193cc66c3e11d4c5e4c7c7ec97.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=IaqDiesel&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1604709643505

It’s been a long, strange trip. But on Sunday, we will finally arrive at Decision Day presented by AT&T. And although 2020 has been arguably the most unusual MLS season in history, if there’s one constant, it’s that the final day always brings big moments and high drama.

Here is what they’ll be playing for beginning in the Eastern Conference at 3:30 pm ET, and the Western Conference at 6:30 pm ET (TV and streaming info).

Eastern Conference

Two postseason berths up for grabs: It’ll be five teams battling it out for two playoff spots in the East. The Chicago Fire, D.C. United, Inter Miami, Montreal Impact and Atlanta United are all doing battle in simultaneous matches to see which two teams will claim the final two postseason tickets and a spot in the play-in round. D.C. United and Montreal will be going head-to-head. Chicago and Montreal have the inside track as they currently hold the final two spots.

No. 1 seed: It’s more or less a two-team race at the top of the Eastern Conference between the Philadelphia Union (1st place) and Toronto FC (2nd place) for the top spot.The Union are currently ahead of Toronto on a secondary tiebreaker. Philly will be at home against the New England Revolution (they’re perfect at home at 8W-0L-0D), while Toronto visit the New York Red Bulls.

First-round home games: The top four in each conference will host in the conference quarterfinal stage. New York City FC (5th place) sit just outside the top four and they will have their focus on moving up by beating Chicago Fire FC and hoping Columbus (4th place) falter.

Play-in byes: The East will have two play-in matches to kickstart the playoffs (No. 7 vs. No. 10 and No. 8 vs. No. 9). Needless to say, teams like New York Red Bulls (No. 7) and the Nashville (No. 8) will be hoping to move out of the play-in zone at New England’s expense (No. 6) and gain a few extra days of rest before conference quarterfinals.

Western Conference

No. 1 seed: It’s Sporting Kansas City (1.80 ppg), Portland Timbers (1.73 ppg), and the Seattle Sounders (1.71 ppg) fighting for West supremacy and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Sporting hold the edge and head to Utah to face a Real Salt Lake team that has already been eliminated.

First-round home games: Along with the top three, currently FC Dallas (4th place) is slated to host a first round playoff match. But the teams right behind Dallas (Minnesota United FCLAFC and Colorado Rapids) will still believe they can earn enough points in the final week to overtake FCD for the hosting privileges. 

The Supporters’ Shield

It comes down to Philadelphia and Toronto competing at a distance on Decision Day for the best regular season record.

Here’s the complete picture on the Shield race in greater detail with all the benefits that come with being No. 1 overall.

The Golden Boot pres. by Audi

With 14 goals, Diego Rossi is in pole position in the race for the league’s top goalscorer, an impressive feat considering he has missed three of LAFC’s 20 games so far. But he will only have one remaining chance against Portland to do damage, while Crew SC’s Gyasi Zardes (11 goals), Chicago’s Robert Beric (11 goals) and Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz (11 goals) each have a shot.

Berhalter looks to USMNT’s future with Reyna, Dest, Konrad, Musah in exciting young squad

Jeff Carlisle  U.S. soccer correspondent  ESPN

There are moments when the focus of an international manager veers decidedly toward near-term concerns. Who is in form? Who is fit? Who is the next opponent? But there also are those occasions when a manager can allow himself or herself to scan the horizon and look to the future.In the case of United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter, this is decidedly one of those occasions. The 24-man roster he announced on Tuesday for matches against Wales on Nov. 12 and Panama four days later features 19 players who are age-eligible for the 2021 Olympics and 14 who are 20 years old or younger. This group’s youth and its corresponding potential makes this squad among the most tantalizing in recent memory.The roster has some names that, at least publicly, have only recently appeared on the national team radar. The most intriguing is that of Yunus Musah.The 17-year-old winger was born in New York, plays for Valencia, scored his first professional goal last weekend and is a product of Arsenal‘s academy. He has played for England‘s youth national teams — although not in official competition, meaning he doesn’t have to file a one-time switch to represent the U.S. — and is eligible to represent Ghana, as well. Credit, then, to U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Earnie Stewart, U.S. men’s national team general manager Brian McBride and Berhalter for jumping on the opportunity to bring in a player that Berhalter said the USSF has been tracking for 18 months. And yes, much like the U.S. did with Sergino Dest when he was deciding his international future, this is as much a recruiting trip as anything.What we see from [Musah] is a player that’s hungry, he’s hungry to make his impact,” Berhalter said. “He has a connection with the United States. He loves the direction the team is going in. He loves the young talent that he can be alongside. And we see him as having a ton of potential. It’s not just a question of Musah choosing. Berhalter will be doing some choosing of his own.”One thing I’m always careful about is, I want to know the player’s connection to the United States in terms of: Do they feel it in their heart?” Berhalter said. “Do they feel like they want to be part of this team? Do they feel a connection to the United States? Because that’s really important. We also want to create a team that has a deep passion for representing our country.”Then there are the likes of Internacional holding midfielder Johnny CardosoWolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Owen Otasowie and Caen forward Nicholas Gioacchini.

Cardoso has been called in for a couple of U23 camps and is one of those out-of-nowhere players to whom fans latch on. He is the first player in 24 years to earn a national team call-up while playing for a club outside of CONCACAF or UEFA. Cobi Jones last did it, earning a call-up to the 1996 CONCACAF Gold Cup while playing for Vasco da Gama.To a large degree, this is all part of a roster’s natural progression. Thirteen players in this squad have represented the U.S. at a youth World Cup, including six at last year’s U20 tournament.There’s also the chance to get another dual national — or in this case, triple national — into the fold in Sebastian Soto. Names such as Dest, Chris RichardsAlex Mendez and Ulysses Llanez have been on the minds of fans for some time now. Now that the quartet is breaking into their respective first teams, the time is right to take the next steps at the international level.There’s even a man-who-came-in-from-the-cold aspect to the roster, as Lille attacker Timothy Weah makes a return after dealing with injuries for much of the past year.Granted, Berhalter isn’t looking exclusively to the future. It has been nearly a year since anything close to his first-choice group has been together, so the November get-together will be an all-too-rare opportunity to see some first-choice players up close. That’s even more so the case with the triumvirate of Christian PulisicTyler Adams and Weston McKennie, who have shared the field for just 62 minutes since the start of 2019.

Alas, that dynamic could continue, as Pulisic suffered a hamstring injury while warming up last weekend for Chelsea‘s match against Burnley. Blues boss Frank Lampard said that the injury is “very minor,” but given Pulisic’s injury history, it seems there is more than a decent chance the U.S. attacker will miss out.Pulisic’s possible absence is mitigated by the presence of 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna. In a world without COVID-19, Reyna would have long since made his debut given his performances for Borussia Dortmund. Now that wait is almost certain to give way to actual minutes on the field alongside Adams and McKennie.”I think we should be able to be very aggressive offensively, getting behind the opponent, really putting the opponent on their heels,” Berhalter said. “And those are things that we need to just work on because we haven’t been together with this group often. Tyler’s played one game for us since I’ve taken over. So it’s just about getting them on the field playing together, getting them comfortable with each other.”

With several competitions scheduled for 2021, including World Cup qualifying, the time is now to get that chemistry established.

How USMNT’s November Camp Pieces May All Fit Together

Recent injuries, a late curveball and a slew of uncapped players add a bit more intrigue to the puzzle manager Gregg Berhalter must piece together for the USA’s first matches since Feb. 1.

AVI CREDITOR23 HOURS AGO  SI 

The U.S. men’s national team as currently constructed is an exciting and promise-filled list of names. The average age for the upcoming camp and friendlies against Wales and Panama is a shade under 22, players are competing at more elite European clubs than ever before, and the potential is tantalizing. As is always the case, though, a list of names on paper and how it will all come together in practice are two entirely different things, and when 10 uncapped players are thrown into the mix—not to mention injury and pandemic curveballs to take into account—there’s a growth process that needs to take place. Expecting that to be carried out to completion in the few days between camp starting and the Nov. 12 friendly vs. Wales is asking a bit much.

For starters, there’s already been a change to the list of names available to manager Gregg Berhalter. Forward Josh Sargent won’t be taking part in camp after all due to coronavirus restrictions in Werder Bremen’s region that would have required him to quarantine for five days upon return from international travel. Werder Bremen announced Thursday that only two of its players would be released for the upcoming international window, as those two are not leaving Germany for their respective camps. U.S. Soccer confirmed that Sargent would not be joining and that LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget would take his place.That removes the top candidate to feature at center forward from the mix and opens up opportunity for the uncapped likes of Sebastian Soto and Nicholas Gioacchini to step in among a group that is flush with wide players but less so on central-based forward figures.Christian Pulisic, one of those leading wide players, may not be available. His injury before last weekend’s game vs. Burnley wound up not being serious, but he missed Chelsea’s Champions League win over Rennes on Wednesday, and his status is for this weekend’s game vs. Sheffield United is not yet known. As Berhalter said Tuesday, Pulisic’s on-field availability would depend on how his hamstring responded in the days that followed. “Christian is a 1-v-1 phenomenon, a guy that can put players on the back heels easily,” Berhalter said. Whether Wales and Panama will get to find that out remains to be seen.

Gio Reyna, who will be experiencing his first senior camp, presuming he emerges unscathed after Saturday’s Dortmund-Bayern Munich showdown, will likely feature in a wide position based on Berhalter’s comments. He’s “a different type of attacking player,” Berhalter said of Reyna, who turns 18 the day after the Wales game. He “can give a final pass, final cross.”“I don’t think we need to necessarily define where he’s going to be playing,” he added. “What we want him to do is impact the game offensively. We want him to score goals and make assists. I think that’s important. We’re going to put him on the field to do that. I don’t think it’s really important to get specific about where, I think it’s what he’s doing on the field. We want him making goals and assists.”The midfield construction is where there is plenty of intrigue. The days of “Tyler Adams, right back” are long gone, with an experiment borne out of necessity being tempered by the rise of Reggie Cannon and Sergiño Dest at the position. Berhalter described the complementary qualities that his top tier of midfielders have.”When you look at Tyler, you have a controlling midfielder with a lot of range, can easily play the No. 6 position, can give you that cover in transition, but also can give you the mobility to make good plays defensively and put pressure on the opponent,” he said.“When you look at Weston [McKennie], he’s a box-to-box midfielder who likes to arrive in the penalty box. He’s strong in tackling, but has that extra offensive edge to him.”interesting to note how little Pulisic, Adams and McKennie have actually played together with the senior national team, largely due to injuries. They’ve only started together once, and in that game, a March 2019 match vs. Ecuador, Adams was at right back, McKennie in a defensive midfield role and Pulisic as a central No. 10 figure. Beyond that, Pulisic and McKennie have started the same match 11 times. McKennie’s role in the midfield has been rather consistent, while Pulisic has shifted between starting as a forward (three times), left wing (two times), right wing (one time) and central midfield (five times). Adams and McKennie have started together without Pulisic in the lineup on five occasions, but not since a Sept. 2018 friendly vs. Mexico, which was the last of three times they’ve both featured in central midfield roles.With Adams recovering from recent back and knee injuries, though, his availability in this camp might be limited. Enter, potentially, Yunus Musah, the 17-year-old Valencia winger eligible to play for the U.S., England, Italy and Ghana. Despite playing out wide for his club, Berhalter said he viewed him more as a central figure with the U.S., though the way he describes what he sees in him overlaps more with McKennie’s attributes than those of Adams.“When you watch his games [at Valencia] he’s playing wide right in a 4-4-2, and he’s taking on the outside back, and he’s running by the outside back and he’s done a good job defensively. But we still see him as a player that can potentially be better centrally—a box-to-box midfielder a little bit in the style of Weston in terms of covering ground,” Berhalter said. “What we have to remember, and I think all of us are getting ahead of ourselves just little bit, because he’s 17 years old. We’re going to bring him into camp and we’re going to play him probably centrally and there’s going to be some growing pains with that, I can tell you right now. But he has so much talent that to me, it’s worth it. It’s worth looking at that.”In the back, the big question mark surrounds Sergiño Dest and on which side he’ll be deployed. He’s played on both for the U.S., for Ajax and now for Barcelona and seems perfectly capable of handling either challenge. The right is his stronger side, though, and with Antonee Robinson beginning to emerge as more of a fixture on the left for Fulham, the need to shift Dest over to that side isn’t as great. Between Robinson, Cannon and Dest, there are three options for two starting nods.The whole point of this camp is to start discovering the answers to some of the outstanding questions. Getting these players together—the first U.S. camp with the top-level, European-based players available in a year—is the opening Berhalter has been yearning for, but there are steps to take before any final answers emerge.”There’s a lot of question marks, but you have to start sometime,” Berhalter said. “Our first objective is to qualify for the World Cup, and then the next objective is to play well at the World Cup and then we go from there. But we realize we do have some bit of time. Qualifying doesn’t start until next September. There is a window that we have, but we have to start somewhere and we’re excited to get this group together and start working with them.”

Pulisic remains out injured for Chelsea

Joe Prince-WrightNBC Sports•November 6, 2020

Frank Lampard has confirmed that Christian Pulisic will not play for Chelsea against Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (watch live, 12:30pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Christian Pulisic, 22, injured his hamstring in the warm up before Chelsea’s win at Burnley last week and pulled out of the starting lineup.

Since then Lampard has said that it is only a small injury as Pulisic missed the Champions League game against Rennes on Wednesday, but had a chance of being fit to play against the Blades on Saturday.

“He is not fit to play,” Lampard said. “He is still suffering with his hamstring and he is not training. In midweek he was training at a low level but was not comfortable so we have to keep looking for the right solution.”

It seems like the last few days of training have proven to be a little too much too soon for Pulisic and anyway, why would Lampard risk rushing him back from another hamstring injury?

The main focus will now be for USMNT fans, as Pulisic has been called up to play for the Star and Stripes in their friendlies against Wales in Panama next week.

Will Pulisic be allowed to link up with the USMNT if he hasn’t been fit enough to play for Chelsea this weekend?

It’s likely he will be allowed to link up with the USMNT as this latest injury doesn’t seem serious, but it’s the latest in a long-line of setbacks over the last 18 months for the American winger.

Listing Pulisic’s injury record

Here’s a closer look at the injuries Pulisic has suffered in just the last two years, as he’s suffered six injuries which have kept him out for at least two weeks on each occasion:

  • August 2018: Muscular problem, 17 days out
  • October 2018: Torn muscle fibre, 15 days out
  • February 2019: Torn muscle fibre, 16 days out
  • March 2019: Torn muscle fibre, 20 days out
  • January 2020: Tear in adductor, 75 days out
  • August 2020: Hamstring injury, 63 days out
  • October 2020: Hamstring injury, TBD

When you see his problems written down in a list like that, you realize that they haven’t been minor issues and they are very similar problems.

Due to those issues he’s been unavailable for 22 games for Chelsea since he arrived just over 12 months ago.

USMNT put it down to growing pains

ProSoccerTalk asked USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter about Pulisic battling through very similar injuries and if he was concerned about any long-term impacts for the 22-year-old.

“I’ve been in that spot myself, where you have an injury and you’re trying to shake it and trying to come back and there is a period where you come back and you are a little bit vulnerable,” Berhalter explained. “I know Chelsea is doing every single thing they can. I know he is doing every single thing he can and he is really focused and dedicated on staying fit.

“I believe he will get to this level of resistance where he stays fit. But building that up sometimes is challenging. That could be a phase he is in right now. I know they could use him. I know he’s a fantastic player and it is great to see what he’s been doing, but he’s in good hands with the club and they are doing everything they can to get him on the field.”

Lewandowski, Haaland go head-to-head in Bayern, Dortmund showdown

AFP•November 5, 2020

The Bundesliga’s top striker Robert Lewandowski goes head-to-head with Erling Braut Haaland on Saturday when league leaders Bayern Munich travel to second-placed Borussia Dortmund.

Germany’s top clubs are both on 15 points with Bayern top due to their vastly superior goal difference.

The European champions have won all three of the club’s most recent meetings, but Dortmund have won two of their last three home games against Bayern.

“Bayern will have respect,” former Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl said in the build-up.

Lewandowski, 32, has banged in 10 goals in his five league games for Bayern, while Dortmund’s Haaland, 20, has scored five times.

Ahead of the top-of-the-table clash, Bayern and Dortmund both rested their star strikers last weekend.

The pair warmed-up by each scoring two goals for their respective clubs in midweek Champions League away wins.

Lewandowski, 32, converted a penalty and added a superb header in a 6-2 thrashing of Salzburg.

Not to be outdone, Haaland, 20, also netted twice in Dortmund’s 3-0 win at Brugge to become the first player to score 14 goals in his first 11 Champions League games. 

– Alaba distraction –

Bayern have had to deal with off-field distractions, however, caused by David Alaba’s contract wrangles.

The defender is “hurt and disappointed” after Bayern withdrew the offer of a contract extension, which reportedly would have earned Alaba up to 20 million euros ($23.6 million) per season.

His contract expires next June and head coach Hansi Flick has said he just wants “calm in the team before the game against Dortmund”.

The big question is whether Dortmund can contain a Bayern side which has scored 44 goals in just 12 games this season. 

Having reverted to a back four after abandoning a three-man defence, Dortmund have not conceded a goal in their last four games.

However, Bayern will be a far bigger test of Dortmund’s defensive prowess than Schalke, Zenit St Petersburg, Bielefeld or Brugge.

“We feel very comfortable in the new system,” said Dortmund centre-back Manuel Akanji.

“We know that we can win against Bayern at home. We have proven that several times.”

Midfielder Axel Witsel impressed as a defender alongside Akanji in the win at Brugge.

Witsel could start against Bayern at centre-back if Mats Hummels fails to recover from a thigh strain.

Before the Bundesliga’s heavyweights slug it out in Dortmund, third-place RB Leipzig host Freiburg, who are winless in their last five games.

Leipzig want to build on their midweek Champions League win over Paris Saint Germain when the German club’s French winger Christopher Nkunku scored against his former club PSG in a 2-1 victory.

One to watch: Alassane Plea

Plea netted a hat-trick in mid-week as Borussia Moenchengladbach returned to their European glory days of the 70s with a 6-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

The 27-year-old has also been creative in Europe with four assists – setting up both goals for Marcus Thuram, who just received his first France call-up, in Gladbach’s 2-2 home draw against Real Madrid.

Expect Plea and Thuram to spearhead the visitors’ attack at Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday with just a point separating the clubs.

Key stats

37 – average minutes Lewandowski needs to score a Bundesliga goal this season, while Haaland nets in the league every 77 minutes.

5 – goals Haaland has scored in as many Bundesliga matches in 2020/21. Lewandowski has netted a record ten in his first five games.

18 – goals Haaland has scored in his first 20 Bundesliga games. Lewandowski scored five times in his first 20 league games in 2010/11.

Fixtures (all times 1330 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Werder Bremen v Cologne (1930)  

Saturday

RB Leipzig v Freiburg, Union Berlin v Arminia Bielefeld, Mainz 05 v Schalke 04, Augsburg v Hertha Berlin, VfB Stuttgart v Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich (1730) 

Sunday

VfL Wolfsburg v Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1700)

10/30/20 – Champs League Week 2 & 3, EPL Big Games, USL Championship Sun eve

Games this Week on TV

So I tuned in to El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona last weekend and wow what a great game of soccer.  Barcelona struggled at home and honestly I thought American Sergio Dest might have been the player of the game for the Catalans as they dropped at 3-1 decision to Real Madrid – who really needed the win.  Also tuned into El Traffico and much like El Classico without the fans in the stands it was simply not the same.  Oh and the Galaxy are so bad without Zlattan that they fired their coach.  Of course the marquet matchup of Chelsea and Man United was a dud as they played to the first 0-0 game of the EPL season.  Pulisic disappeared and overall it was not good soccer to watch.  Hopefully this week Pulisic and Chelsea will give us more as they travel to Burnely Sat at 11 am on NBCSN.  Liverpool faces Westham at 1:30 pm on the dreaded Peacock Sat while Sunday the marquee Man United vs Arsenal will also be on the Peacock at 11:30 am.  Monday 6th place Leeds United and Leicester City (4th) are on NBCSN at 3 pm right after Fulham at 3rd place Aston Villa at 1 pm.  MLS does have Philly – yes Philly winners of 4 of 5 looking to hold on to 1st in the East as they travel to former Beast of the east now 3rd place Columbus Crew 9 pts back Sunday at 3 pm on ABC – here’s the match previewOh and Zlatan says Wear A Mask!

Champions League Group Stage Matchday 2 Results

So just 1 week after celebrating a record 5 American’s starting and 7 playing on Matchday 1 last week in Champions League – this week only 1 US Player started on matchday 2.  Dortmund Midfielder Gio Reyna was the only American starting this week as Sergino Dest of Barcelona, RB Leipzig’s Adams (Injured) (they lost 5-0 to Man U without him), and Ethan Horvath GK DNP.  Juve’s McKinney came off the bench following his recovery from Covid and Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic came off the bench but scored a goal and drew a penaltly for the Blues in his 25 minute stint a 4-0 win at Russia’s Krasnodar.  The big showdown between Juve’s Renaldo and Barca’s Messi was a dud as Renaldo tested positive for Covid still and Barca won 2-0.  A bit misleading as Juve did have 3 goals called back by VAR – at least of them ridiculous !  Which brings up a point.  I am a proponent of VAR – as a ref who misses things on the field sometimes I think its important to get a second look sometimes.  But when offsides is being analyzed with a line and a computer to say his toe was offsides by 2 inches 40 feet from goal?  Its too much.  If they are going to do that they need to relax the offsides rule somehow.  Too many goals are being disallowed now.  Its nuts.  And lets not get started on handballs.  Pulisic’s kick into the chest then arm of the defender 1 foot away should have never been a handball.  Things are getting a bit too tight it my mind!  Champs League Standings

UCL Games this Week

Not really any marquet games this week in Champions League Matchday 3 –Chelsea and Pulisic travel to France to face 4th place Rennes on Tues at 1 pm on CBS AA, Dortmund and Gio Ryna host Club Brugge at 3 pm Tues, along with PSG hosting RB Leipzig and Tyler Adams also at 3 pm – both teams need the win as they trail Man U by 3 pts.  The game to watch might be Real Madrid traveling to Inter Wed at 3 pm – the teams are at the bottom of their group and both need wins.  Here’s a great breakdown from Bill Connelly ESPNFC writer.

USL Championship on Sunday Night 8:30 pm

The Tampa Bay Rowdies will host the Phoenix Rising Sunday night as ESPN will televise the USL Championship game at 8:30 pm. Former Indy 11 Rival Cincy FC will say goodbye to Nippert Stadium with no crowd on hand as Cincy plays their last MLS home game this season before moving to their new stadium.  Sad I never made it to Nippert – I hear it was a great venue for soccer with packed crowds for most games.  I had planned to go this summer before the pandemic.  Kicking myself now for not going to a Indy 11 Cincy game there back in the day.  Oh well.   Speaking of the 11 – Hackshaw and Pasher were named to the 2nd Team All League Team.  Congrats. 

High School Playoffs Fri/Sat

Good luck to former Carmel FC and Carmel High coach Carla Baker as she assists now with Park Tudor in the Class A finals vs Lafayette Central Catholic at Grand Park Events Center Friday at 6 pm. Sat Guerin Catholic girls will face Noblesville at 8 pm at Fishers for the Class 3A title.  Admission: $12 per person. Children age 2 or younger free of charge. | Public Digital Sale Only starting at 1 pm ET / 12 pm CT on Thursday, Oct. 29 via GoFan. All ticket sales will be digital only via GoFan ticketing. No cash or credit card sales at the gate. Please purchase tickets online in advance and present your purchase verification on your phone to gain admittance at the gate. Videostream: All six soccer matches will be available at IHSAAtv.org via pay-per-view for $14.95 per match or $19.95 for access to all matches.

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Oct 31 

7:30 am Peacock                                Sheffield United vs Man City

10:30 am ESPN+                                 Werder Breman (Stewart) vs Frankfort (Chandler) 

9 am beIN Sport                           Real Madrid vs Huesca

11 am NBCSN                     Burnley vs Chelseas (Pulisic) 

12:30 pm Peacock?                      Liverpool vs West Ham 

1:30 pm  ESppn+                                 M’Gladbach vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3:30 pm Univsion                              Dallas (Hedges) vs Houston

8:30 pm ESPN+                                   Nashville vs Chicago Fire

Sun, Nov 1 

9 am NBCSN                                       Newcastle vs Everton

11:30 am Peacock                        Man United vs Arsenal

3:30 pm  ABC                    Columbus Crew vs Philly 

8:30 pm ESPN                   Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Phoenix Rising NASL Championship

Mon, Nov 2 

1 pm NBCSN                                   Fulham (Ream & Robinson) vs West Brom 

3 pm NBCSN                                   Leeds United vs Leicester City

 

Champions League TV schedule

All times Eastern.

Tuesday, November 3

Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Atletico Madrid (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

RB Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Man City vs. Olympiacos (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

Porto vs. Marseille (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Midtjylland vs. Ajax (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Atalanta vs. Liverpool (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Wednesday, November 4

Zenit vs. Lazio (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

Istanbul Basaksehir vs. Man United (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Sevilla vs. Krasnodar (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Brugge vs. Dortmund (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Barcelona vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Ferencvaros vs. Juventus (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

RB Leipzig vs. PSG (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Wed, Nov 12

2:45 pm FS1                      USA vs Wales

USA
Dortmund’s Gio Reyna becomes youngest American to start in Champions League

Lampard: “I never doubted Pulisic”

USMNT in UCL: Pulisic Scores, Draws PK for ChelseaBY AVI CREDITOR

Reyna Stands out as one of Best Bundesliga Midfielders So Far this Season

Doyle: Predicting the USMNT roster for the November window
Who’ll score USMNT’s goals on the road to the World Cup?

USMNT to Play Wales Wed, Nov 12 2:45 pm on FS1  

Champions League

Champions League fact or fiction: Man United are among favorites, Real Madrid won’t escape the group  Bill Connelly ESPNFC
Champions League wrap: Messi leads Barca at Juve; Dortmund, PSG win

Champions League roundup: Real Madrid, Atleti come back late

Real Madrid Walks Tightrope in Champions League – Jon Wilson SI

Is the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry all but over?
Juventus fall to Messi’s Barcelona without Covid-hit Ronaldo

Rashford scores hat-trick as Man Utd smash Leipzig 5-0 in Champions League

Sancho, Haaland rescue toiling Dortmund in ‘game that won’t go in history books’

Three things we learned from Manchester United – RB Leipzig

PSG win in Turkey with Kean brace as Neymar goes off injured

Pulisic scores, Chelsea pops Krasnodar

Zidane says Real deserved point after fightback at Gladbach

Liverpool edge past Midtjylland but Fabinho injury adds to defensive woes

Klopp downbeat on Fabinho injury; what now for Liverpool?

Man City cruises to win at Marseille

Kimmich strike maintains Bayern Munich’s record run in Europe
8/10 Ziyech and Werner impress, Pulisic scores as Chelsea cruise3hShaun Reynolds
EUROPE
‘European Super League’ or new-look Champions League — what does the future hold?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic urges fans to mask up to stop COVID-19: ‘You are not Zlatan, do not challenge the virus’
Barcelona reverting back to rough pre-Messi era?
Europa League: Arsenal, Napoli win; Leverkusen upset

Spurs stunned by Antwerp as Milan, Arsenal cruise to victories

 

EPL
Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Week 7

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard must get his stars to shine or face certain drama  Ian Darke

Lampard responds to Marsch on Pulisic: He’s recounted it wrong
Man United clear favorites over Arsenal in MW7

Man United vs Arsenal Preview
Which Premier League club in Europe has the toughest road?

Lower-league football clubs ‘face extinction’ without rescue package

 

MLS & USL

MLS to Use Points Per Game for Playoff Seeding, Standings BY AVI CREDITOR SI
Guillermo Barros Schelotto out in LA
Portland Timbers clinch 4th consecutive postseason appearance

Nashville SC becomes sixth MLS expansion team to clinch playoff berth in first season

LAFC clinches MLS playoff berth with win over Houston Dynamo
Boehm: FCC dream of bright future as they bid farewell to Nippert
USL Champ Final Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Phoenix Rising at Al Lang
Phoenix won’t host USL final after slur incident
Phoenix Rising coach back after anti-gay incident
USL League One cancels championship game after multiple positive COVID-19 tests

  

USMNT in Champions League: Pulisic Scores, Draws PK Off Bench for Chelsea

AVI CREDITOR

  •  

The American contingent in the Champions League was largely confined to the bench on Wednesday, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any room to contribute.Christian Pulisic came off the bench in the 71st minute for Chelsea, drew a penalty and scored the final goal of a 4-0 rout of Krasnodar in Russia in one of the two early games on the day across Europe’s premier competition.Pulisic, who recently returned from injury, scored his first goal of the season and tied DaMarcus Beasley’s record for an American in the Champions League with his fourth career goal in the competition with his 90th minute finish, a near-post tally from close range.Earlier, minutes after his inclusion, Pulisic received a pass after a run down the middle, and his shot from inside the box hit off the hand of a Krasnodar defender for a penalty kick that Timo Werner went on to convert to make it 2-0. The only American to earn the start on Wednesday was Gio Reyna, who was given his first start in Champions League play by Dortmund vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg. He nearly scored, putting an early shot wide of the post, and he also absorbed a harsh tackle and got up limping on a first-half tackle, though he shook it off and remained in the game. He came off in the 84th minute, with Dortmund leading 1-0 on the strength of a Jadon Sancho penalty kick. Erling Haaland’s insurance goal gave Dortmund a 2-0 victoryWeston McKennie (Juventus vs. Barcelona), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona vs. Juventus), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig vs. Man United) and Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge vs. Lazio) were the other Americans whose teams were in action on Wednesday.For McKennie, he had yet to play since being cleared of the coronavirus prior to his entry in the 75th minute on Wednesday. As for Dest, Sergi Roberto was preferred over the 19-year-old despite his impressive showing in El Clasico last weekend, and Dest remained on the bench throughout his side’s 2-0 win in Turi.  Adams is recovering from a knee injury suffered in training, so his exclusion from RB Leipzig’s 5-0 defeat to Man United wasn’t all that surprising, and Brugge starting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was cleared of coronavirus, sending Horvath back to the bench for Wednesday’s 1-1 draw despite his performance in last week’s win over Zenit.

Frank Lampard rejects claim he doubted Christian Pulisic’s top-flight ability

By Nick Purewal, PAPA Media: SportOct 29, 2020, 11:58 AM

Frank Lampard has insisted he never doubted Christian Pulisic’s ability to thrive in the Premier League.Lampard has moved to set the record straight after claims from Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch that the Chelsea boss had been unconvinced by Pulisic on taking the Stamford Bridge helm.Pulisic netted twice for Chelsea in a pre-season friendly against Salzburg in the summer of 2019, after which Marsch claimed Lampard revealed reservations about the USA forward.Marsch claimed Lampard said of Pulisic “he’s got a lot to learn so we’ll see how he does” and that the Chelsea boss has had to revise his opinion of the ex-Borussia Dortmund star.But Lampard rejected those claims and moved to explain the situation – in a bid to reassure the 22-year-old Pulisic he always knew the full extent of his talents.“I did read the comments, I was surprised that Jesse had managed to read my mind as well as he thought he did,” said Lampard.“He’s recounted the conversation wrongly, so I have to put it right. Because it was a game against Salzburg where we played them and Christian scored two goals in pre-season.“Afterwards, fair enough, Jesse came up to me and said what a talented plyer Christian was, which I knew and I agreed with.“And I spoke about the fact that it was so exciting to see how he could develop for us with the talent that he has.“That was the conversation. Jesse managed to put it across slightly differently.“Maybe Jesse knows the feeling of American managers and coaches who travel into Europe, so maybe has things that I don’t get.

“But one thing I did get, I played in America for 18 months, and I will never underestimate the desire that American players have, to learn and improve and take on information, and understand the technical side of the game.“So when you have that, which Christian has, and you have incredible talent, it was never in doubt for me.“My only thing is I coach in the Premier League and I’ve played in it for nearly 20 years, so I understand the rigours of it. “And I suppose that probably brings me on to Christian’s development last year.“It’s clearly the toughest league in the world to come and play at a young age from a different league.“And it’s not just Christian who would have felt that in his early stages.“Some of the greatest players in Premier League history, whether they came from America or Europe, or anywhere in the world, have felt that

.34 appearances

  • 11 goals
  • 9 assists

“What Christian did was find his feet very quickly and have a breakthrough season in the Premier League where he produced more goals and assists than he had produced previously.“So I thought his performance last year was massively impressive on his own.“He will get better and better because he’s a young player. And I never doubted it in the first place.“And that’s not me jumping on Jesse, because I think there’s probably a bigger issue there with American players. I don’t want to comment on that, he can field that himself.“But as a manager I never doubted Christian. And it’s important for me to put that straight actually, more for Christian than anything.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard must get his stars to shine or face certain drama

USMNT has Pulisic and Reyna in form, but who will score the goals on road to 2022 World Cup?

For all the excitement around the latest young batch of USMNT prospects — a quick look at their potential can’t help but make fans dream a little — there are still question marks over who will be the main man up front to score the goals that lead them into the 2022 World Cup.While you have the outstanding Christian Pulisic already settled on one wing and Giovanni Reyna likely playing in the attacking midfielder role, there is a notable vacancy at striker. The honor has been shifted around over the past few years, but inevitably comes back to Jozy Altidore. He will be 32 when the next World Cup arrives, never mind the lingering questions over whether he is still good enough.

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That said, there are a number of potential options spread around Europe.

When one MLS sporting director was asked by ESPN who they’d start up front, the response was short and to the point: “Josh Sargent.”

Sargent hasn’t scored in 438 league minutes this season for Werder Bremen, his only goal of the campaign so far coming in the German Cup against third-tier Carl Zeiss Jena. Even though he’s spent time on the right wing at the tail end of last season and at the start of this one, he’s now being played up top.

Americans in Europe

ESPN highlights the biggest stories around USMNT stars plying their trade overseas, bringing inside information to their successes and struggles, sitting down with some of the national team’s top players and scouting the next generation of Americans breaking through across Europe.

Although his adaptability is one of his huge strengths, it’s at striker where his long-term future lies. That same MLS sporting director told ESPN that for all his time floating around the attacking positions, “Sargent is a center-forward, simple.” He was left off the 2019 Gold Cup squad, a snub that affected him — but he is a resilient man, used to coping with the unpredictability of top-level football, and he could prove to be the tip of the diamond in a forward lineup of Pulisic, Reyna and potentially Jordan Morris or Gyasi Zardes.

While Sargent is one obvious choice, elsewhere in Europe there are some bubbling nicely as others struggle to state their claim. Sebastian Soto made an offseason transfer from Hannover 96 to Norwich and is now on loan at SC Telstar in the Dutch second tier, where he has scored five goals in six games. There were rumors he was contemplating switching his allegiance from the United States to Chile, so if he’s picked for the November internationals, he will confirm his commitment.

Of the other players likely to feature in the next batch of USMNT friendlies, Tim Weah and Konrad de la Fuente are still looking to establish themselves at Lille and Barcelona, respectively. De la Fuente has experienced some first-team action for Barcelona, but will get most of his game time with Barca B this year on the wing. Weah is playing off the bench at center-forward for Lille, but has not been playing a whole lot after missing most of last season through injury.

The much-admired Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, was on the USMNT radar earlier this year, sources told ESPN, and has two goals in seven matches for SC Caen in Ligue 2. He is switching between the right wing and center-forward positions, but he’s coming along nicely; even though he is also eligible for ItalyFrance and Jamaica, he said recently he’d go to the U.S. “with his eyes closed” if they came calling.

Is 20-year-old Josh Sargent the answer to the USMNT’s present and long-term future striker conundrum? Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

Tyler Boyd and Bobby Wood have also been options in the past, but neither has enjoyed the easiest of starts to the 2020-21 campaign. Boyd is out of the Besiktas squad due to a cap on foreigners, which means he will be blocked from getting game time until he can secure a move in the January transfer window. Wood, 27, has made just three substitute appearances for 2. Bundesliga side Hamburg.

Another wild card could be Andrija Novakovich, who is at Alessandro Nesta’s Frosinone in Serie B and could be one to reemerge from the shadows. He won the last of his three USMNT caps in 2018 and has two goals in six games for his club side this term. Other options, who are yet to declare their international allegiance, are Arsenal‘s New York-born Folarin Balogun, 18, and ex-France youth international Jordan Siebatcheu, who is on loan at Young Boys from Rennes.

The common theme here is that potential USMNT center-forwards are largely playing out on the wing for their club sides. If U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter is looking at goals per game and more traditional strikers then, as one source suggested to ESPN, the answers to the conundrum are in Scandinavia.

Icelandic American Aron Johannsson won the last of his 19 USMNT caps in 2015, but look at his scoring record this season: he has 13 goals in 22 matches for Hammarby. Switching between a false nine and No. 10 role, he has been ruthless, showing some of his best form after a few injury-plagued years. He’s one who could feature in the November friendlies, and one source told ESPN: “Don’t discount him; he’s going to be in contention.” He may not be at Hammarby for long, either, with interest being shown in him from former club AZ Alkmaar, MLS and Russia, sources told ESPN.And then there’s Haji Wright and Emmanuel Sabbi. Wright, 22, has five goals in seven contests for Danish Superligaen side SonderjyskE after barren seasons at Schalke and VVV-Venlo. He started the season on the bench, but his brace against Aalborg in round three saw him force his way into the first XI and he marked that occasion with a goal against Brondby in mid-October. Sabbi has also found success in Denmark, having scored two goals in six for Odense while primarily playing out wide.

If you’re looking to sketch out a U.S. team for the 2022 World Cup, then you can expect a 4-2-3-1 with Altidore the sole striker, a source close to the team told ESPN. The general feeling is that Berhalter is hoping Sargent emerges before then, but that remains a big if. They also are hoping for big things from Jeremy Ebobisse of the Portland Timbers, but until someone really grasps that opportunity, it’ll be Altidore or Zardes up front with a supporting cast of Pulisic, Reyna and likely Morris.

It may end up being “goals by committee,” one source said, but there’s an opportunity to become the USMNT’s go-to striker entering the 2022 World Cup. — Tom Hamilton

USMNT Stock Watch: Who’s up? Who’s down?

How are the players Berhalter will be relying upon for World Cup qualifying performing with their clubs? ESPN’s correspondents from around the world bring you inside information to help explain the successes and stumbles of American players plying their trade overseas.

Ale Moreno praises the performance of Sergino Dest in his first-ever El Clasico despite Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat.

Sergino Dest, Barcelona — On the rise : The right-back has made a dazzling start to life in Spain, looking assured first in the Champions League against Ferencvaros and then in the Clasico at the weekend against Real Madrid, when he was Barcelona’s best player. Dest, who has been starting in place of the injured Jordi Alba but long term is expected to play on the right, has drawn rave reviews from the staff at Barca, with sources telling ESPN’s Sam Marsden that they cannot believe how quickly he’s settled in despite being just 19 and coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world. Sources added that Dest has thrown himself fully into life at Barcelona, promising to learn both Spanish and Catalan, and immediately looking at home in Barcelona’s quick passing game.

Bobby Wood, Hamburg — Trending down : At one stage the USMNT’s most consistent goal scorer, Wood has seemingly disappeared in the past two seasons. Still not 28, Wood hasn’t played for the U.S. since 2018, and at present is finding game time tough to come by in the 2. Bundesliga with Hamburg. He’s only made three substitute appearances this term, a dramatic fall for a player who once scored 17 goals in a season at this level and later was a Bundesliga regular. While the goals have dried up, it may not be all doom and gloom for Wood, as new Hamburg manager Daniel Thioune told ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld that he rates what he sees with Wood. For now though, Wood is trending down, as he has failed to crack Hamburg’s starting XI this season and has not scored a club goal since Nov. 2018.

Sebastian Soto, Telstar (on loan from Norwich) — On the rise : The 20-year-old continued his red-hot start at loan club Telstar, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win at Helmond Sport last weekend. With five goals in six games so far in the Dutch second tier, Soto continues to showcase elite goal-scoring instincts and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. The biggest question remaining is who he will represent at the international level. Eligible for both the United States and Chile, the Real Salt Lake academy product is awaiting his first senior call-up and could have a big decision to make come November. “I have heard both countries want me, but until I get something that is actually official, then I don’t have a decision to make. I am just waiting,” Soto recently told Dutch broadcaster NH Sport.

Jonathan Amon Nordsjælland — Trending down : More bad luck for the 21-year-old South Carolina native. After playing — and scoring a winner off the bench — in his first club game for 13 months two weeks ago, Amon reinjured his knee and now will undergo another surgery. The winger, who looked lively in two caps for the U.S. at the end of 2018 and start of 2019, has a fracture in his knee and now faces another lengthy spell on the sideline. This week’s setback is the latest in a series of bad injury breaks for Amon, with Nordsjaelland sporting director 

A few minutes with … Matt Miazga

Given what Pulisic has done lately at Chelsea, it is easy to forget that central defender Matt Miazga was the first young American to make the move to Stamford Bridge back in 2016.

Now 25, Miazga recently joined Belgian giants Anderlecht on a season-long loan, where he will continue his development under Vincent Kompany, one of the top center-backs of the past decade.

Tom Hamilton caught up with Miazga to talk about his new club, his future at Chelsea, working with Kompany, his place within the United States men’s national team and much more.

Scouting report: Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona B)

“Konrad,” as he’s simply known in Spain, has represented the United States at most youth team levels and rose to prominence as a 17-year-old at the Under-20 World Cup last summer. The wide man with a seemingly endless repertoire of trickery was drafted into the Barcelona first-team squad in September and subsequently made his debut in a preseason friendly.

Quick off the mark, brilliant one-v-one offensively and with strong balance, the 2001-born attacker prefers to operate on the left-wing, often side-stepping opponents to cut inside on his favored right foot. His boyhood hero was Barcelona legend Ronaldinho, but on the pitch, he draws a closer comparison to another Brazilian: ex-Barcelona star Neymar. Like the two South Americans, Konrad enjoys setting off on dazzling runs and, once he hits top speed, he has a similar ability to make a full-back look foolish.

Having already attracted praise from manager Ronald Koeman, the young American is looking to add more consistency to his game. Improving his team play and working even more on his weaker left foot will be key as he knocks on the door of a senior debut at Camp Nou.

Armchair Analyst: Predicting the USMNT roster for the November window

October 29, 202012:34PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

\It has quite obviously been the very weirdest year for soccer in the US, and that includes for the US men’s national team and every level of the youth national teams. March was supposed to be a Olympic qualifying for the U-23s and a massive, European-based camp with a pair of friendlies. There was no summer tournament scheduled for the USMNT, but there would have been at least six friendlies, the Olympics and a big U-20 camp. Then this autumn, World Cup qualifying proper was supposed to start.All of that has been wiped out by the global pandemic, and so neither the USMNT nor the U-20s have played since January. The U-23s haven’t played at all in 2020. It’s been a year of nothing.And yet it’s also been kind of an awesome year for the USMNT, right? Christian Pulisic leveled up to become one of the very best wingers in the world. Tyler Adams has gotten healthier (though not 100% healthy) and slid into more of a game-controlling quarterback role instead of a game-destroying terrier role. Weston McKennie moved from Schalke, who play the worst soccer in the world, to Juventus, who very much don’t. Gio Reyna put his miserable performance at the U-17 World Cup behind him almost immediately after it happened and has broken through in a big way for Borussia Dortmund, starting the majority of their biggest games even at just 17 years old. Sergino Dest went from part-time starter at Ajax to part-time-starter-after-a-$20 million-move to Barcelona, and acquitted himself well in his first El Clasico.Just one of those things would have made 2020 some sort of win for the USMNT. All five of them happening in the course of a few months is kind of mind-bending. We have rarely had a single player suiting in those types of major roles for clubs at that level, and when it did happen it was usually a ‘keeper. Now, however, we’ve got five players in major roles for five of the best teams in the world, and all are age 22 or younger.It’s not just those five, though. Chris Richards started getting sporadic minutes for Bayern Munich. Tim Weah made his first halting steps back from a long-term injury. Antonee Robinson almost moved to AC Milan, then did move to Fulham in the Premier League. Josh Sargent is a regular starter in the Bundesliga for the second straight season, and hasn’t yet turned 21. Reggie Cannon made a move to Portugal with Lille — and a perennial place in European competition — the likely next stop. Zack Steffen has solidified himself as Manchester City’s No. 2.No USMNT fan could’ve realistically asked for more. In terms of how the vast majority of our young core has developed, this has been a banner year. So that means that for the USMNT, it has been a banner year.And quite obviously the weird part is that we’ve yet to see these guys get on the field together and put the above progress and development to work in Red, White & Blue. Reyna and Richards have never played for the full national team. Weah, whose most recent cap came in 2018, has never played for Gregg Berhalter after missing basically all of 2019 with injuries. Adams and Robinson have played for Berhalter just once.Those numbers would be very different if 2020 had been a normal year, in any sense. We’d have a better sense of how they fit and who Berhalter rated where, and, of course, how they’d play.Which brings us to next month’s international date, during which the US are scheduled to play Wales on November 12 and maaaaaaybe Panama after that if all the paperwork can be sorted. Both games will be in the UK.This is the first chance to see all or, at least, most of that young core on the field together in any sort of setting. After 10 months of waiting the USMNT will be back, and it should be a different and much-improved bunch over what we saw throughout most of 2019.Given travel restrictions placed on people coming from the US these days, I expect Berhalter to call in a predominantly European squad with a few MLS players from non-playoff teams mixed in. There is no cap on the numbers of players Berhalter can call in, and given how many camps have been missed this year, I’m expecting him to go big — much bigger than the usual 23-man roster. Here we go:

GOALKEEPER: Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy)

Steffen is still the clear No. 1 in Berhalter’s eyes, which doesn’t appear likely to change. Horvath went a year without playing, then got on the field earlier this month for Brugge in the Champions League and had himself a blinder. It was a nice moment for the kid.  Klinsmann has struggled mightily since being handed the starting job in Carson, but he’s one of just two U-23 US ‘keepers getting starting minutes anywhere in the world. The other — and presumed Olympic starter based upon form and, especially, footwork — is San Jose’s J.T. Marcinkowski, who will be busy prepping for the playoffs.

Berhalter and pretty much everyone at U.S. Soccer has talked about how important the Olympics are this cycle, so I suspect he’ll give a potential qualifying ‘keeper a call and an invite across the pond to train with the first team, which itself is packed with Olympic-eligible players. Even if Klinsmann seems unlikely to play a big role in Olympic qualifying… you never know. And there’s no harm in bringing the kid to this camp.

FULLBACKS: Dest (Barcelona), Cannon (Boavista), Robinson (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Shaq Moore (CD Tenerife)

Dest and Cannon are locks, and are probably the starters. Robinson has struggled defensively in his past US appearances, but he was young, the competition-level was mostly high, and the entire team was mostly a mess in those caps. He is an easy call. So are Yedlin — despite the fact that he hasn’t played for Newcastle this year, and is clearly out the door come winter — and Moore, who has quietly won a starting job in the Segunda Liga.Something to think about with regard to fullback usage, which has been a point of contention since literally Berhalter’s first game in charge: The last time the US took the field, back in February against Costa Rica, we saw both wingers pinch inside and both fullbacks (Sam Vines on the left; Cannon on the right) push forward at pace in a pretty linear way. There was no tucking into central midfield or any of the other misdirection that Berhalter spent much of 2019 trying to bake into the way the team plays.That bodes well for Cannon (who actually won the match-deciding PK on the overlap), and especially Robinson and Yedlin. Both of those guys have the straight-line speed to go endline-to-endline but neither is the type of gifted technician who’d be comfortable coming inside and dictating play in the way that, for example, Dest or Adams (when playing fullback) can.  Moore is, I’m sure, a bit of a mystery to most US fans. The short scouting report: right-footed, straight-line player; exceptional crosser; probably a little sleepy defensively to the point that he’s actually been played as a classic, non-inverted winger a bunch.

CENTER BACKS: John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Tim Ream (Fulham), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Vienna), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Bournemouth)

The only questions here are fitness with regard to Richards and Carter-Vickers, each of whom have suffered knocks and been out for a bit.And also, consider the stability and progress of that massive cohort of young players mentioned in the lede against the instability and one-step-forward, two-steps-back nature of the careers of Miazga, Palmer-Brown and Carter-Vickers. It is a night-and-day difference, and should be a reminder to the fanbase to appreciate this moment when so many of our best players are steadily advancing their careers for great clubs.Another thing to consider: If playing for the likes of Anderlecht, Austria Vienna and Bournemouth is the bad outcome… that’s actually pretty good!

DEFNSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional Porto Alegre), Chris Durkin (Sint-Truiden)

This is the “quarterback” role and we should pretty obviously see at least 150 minutes of Adams in this spot if he his healthy. Berhalter has indicated, over the past year or so, that he’s planning to use Adams in central midfield, but has also been cagey about which spot. In the past I think there’s been an argument that Adams’ best skill — his front-foot pressing and ability to cause turnovers — can be best brought to bear in more of a No. 8 role, but given the role he’s now playing for Leipzig, his personal preference and his growth as a passer of the ball, as well as need within the USMNT and the other options at the No. 8 and 10 spots… I hope Berhalter doesn’t overthink this. Let’s see the kid take a few snaps.Cardoso might actually be more of a No. 8, though I have the 19-year-old listed as a No. 6 here. He’s played both spots for the Brazilian giants both domestically and in the Copa Libertadores.Durkin has played myriad roles for Sint-Truiden during an up-and-down season, and I think it’d be pretty easy to make the case that he hasn’t really earned a call-up based upon his play. But his skillset matches what Berhalter has traditionally looked for from the No. 6, and Durkin’s still just 20 — i.e., Olympic-eligible — so as with Klinsmann, it’s an easy call to bring him to this camp even if he’s very unlikely to see the field.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: McKennie (Juventus), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg U-23s)

Holmes has struggled for fitness and for playing time once he’s been fit, but it’s worth bringing him into camp. The same is probably true for Kayo, who’s yet to make his first-team debut for Wolfsburg but seems to have been fast-tracked in a way that Uly Llanez and Kobe Hernandez-Foster were not.I’m curious to see if McKennie and Adams would play side-by-side out of possession, as Sebastian Lletget and Jackson Yueill did against the Ticos. It was much more of a 4-2-3-1 double-pivot look than Berhalter had previously used, and would seem to be a snug fit for this group.

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Lletget (LA Galaxy), Richie Ledezma (Jong PSV)

Reyna’s debut is obviously one of the main selling points of this camp, and he should start and play as many minutes as Berhalter and Dortmund’s sports science department think is appropriate in the middle of a Bundesliga season. I want to see how he’ll fit into the same midfield as Adams and McKennie.Lletget gets the call because he is basically the only potential USMNT starter in MLS whose team did not/is not going to make the playoffs, and obviously he’s been excellent for the US. There is no reason not to bring him even if he’s unlikely to play much during this camp.As for Ledezma… I still believe. His progress has been nowhere near as linear or quick as the likes of Reyna, McKennie, Adams or Pulisic, and there are times where his deficiencies — he’s super right-footed; his set piece delivery is erratic; he lacks physicality — are on full display even in the Eerste Divisie, a level of soccer that is honestly no higher than the USL Championship.

But he’s still pretty young (just turned 20) and still has a high upside. And like others on this roster, he’s here because he’s likely to be a big part of Olympic qualifying, so why not bring him along?

WINGERS: Pulisic (Chelsea), Weah (Lille), Luca de la Torre (Heracles Almelo), Llanez (Heerenveen), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Konrad de la Fuente (Barca B)

Pulisic on the left, and then we figure out what works best on the right. I’m hoping it’ll be Weah, even though he’s played few minutes (and they’ve mostly been at center forward) since returning from injury. Weah’s also not a prototype modern right winger in that he’s not super-dangerous 1v1 off the dribble, but he’s a smart and inventive passer and is very good in the half-spaces. If you look back to the February game, Berhalter had the wingers tuck inside quite often and operate there while the fullbacks overlapped and the Free 8s pulled deeper.

De la Torre, unlike Ledezma and Llanez, is actually starting Eredivisie games, so into the mix he goes. Same with de la Fuente, who had a few nice preseason appearances for the full Barcelona side but is, as of now, still a Barca B player.

I could live without Boyd, who struggled in his last few US appearances and has been left out of Besiktas’s squad both domestically and in European play. But also, I see zero harm in calling him in.

CENTER FORWARDS: Sargent (Werder Bremen), Nicolas Gioacchini (Caen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Haji Wright (SonderjyskE)

Sargent should basically get every single No. 9 second available here even though he’s mostly been played as a winger or second forward for Werder (though that’s about to change given the injuries in that squad; Sargent should get a few weeks to lock down the No. 9 job).Gioacchini is a 20-year-old center forward playing at a decent level (Ligue 2) whose hold-up play is more impressive than his finishing for the time being. Soto is a 20-year-old center forward playing at a low level (Eerste Divisie) whose finishing is more impressive than his hold-up play for the time being. Neither have really earned a full USMNT camp, but deserve’s got nothing to do with it at this point. They are here to get a feel for the system, which could/should lay some of the foundation for what they may be asked to do with the Olympic team.The same is true for the 22-year-old Wright, who I’ve never particularly rated. He did not cut it in Germany or the Netherlands, but he now has five goals in 240 minutes in Denmark. There is real “Romain Gall” energy to this burst of form, and I will not shed a tear if he is not called in. But I certainly won’t complain if he is.I will complain a bit if Aron Johannsson is called in. He’s about to turn 30, has played more than 2,000 minutes in a season exactly once, and is only scoring against bottom-tier teams in Sweden. Even when he was in his athletic prime and scoring regularly in the Eredivisie international soccer was too quick for him; I can’t imagine that would be different now. If you want to reach for a European-based veteran to call for this camp, I’d honestly throw Bobby Wood a lifeline instead. Like Johannsson his career has been marred by injury, but he’s just 27 and unlike Johannsson he has a history of delivering big goals for the USMNT and looking physically capable of handling international play. He has scored massive goals in official competition against Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama, and those are exactly the type of goals the US will need over the next 18 months.I’m not as concerned about our center forward depth chart as others — I think Sargent will come good, I think Gyasi Zardes will score tough goals, I’m betting big that one of Daryl DikeJeremy Ebobisse or Ayo Akinola will hit, and I think Jozy Altidore‘s got at least a little something left. But I do worry about the types of goals that Wood scored at Honduras back in 2017, and would feel like 10 percent better about the depth chart if he was somewhere scoring them.So if you want a vet, call Bobby. Otherwise, for this camp I’m good with the four kids.

My 11

Sargeant

Pulisic, Reyna, Weah

Adams, McKinney

Robinson, Brooks, Richards, Dest

Steffan


  • You could pretty easily talk me into Dest starting on the left, Cannon on the right and Robinson off the bench.This is early for Richards, who’s only played a few minutes at right back for the Bayern first team, but he’s worth it as a prospect and I’d be fine with this unless Miazga, Palmer-Brown or Carter-Vickers just buries him in training.I could see Lletget starting in midfield and Reyna as the right-sided winger given the way that winger operates for Berhalter.Anyway, it’ll be great to have the USMNT back and I genuinely can’t wait to watch these guys play. It’s been too long.

Real Madrid Is Walking a Champions League Tightrope

Real Madrid lost its first group match and very nearly lost its second, with big deficits and desperate comebacks not a sustainable formula for good fortune on the Champions League stage.

JONATHAN WILSONOCT 27, 2020

Two very late goals for Real Madrid at Borussia Monchengladbach perhaps staved off any real talk of crisis. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw, though, does not tell anything like the whole story: this was a Champions League performance that only magnified the doubts about Zinedine Zidane’s side on another night that seemed to confirm the era of Spanish domination in Europe is over. A single point from its first two games mean Real Madrid is in serious danger of failing to make it through its Champions League group for the first time since 1997. On every previous occasion, Madrid has been in a group, it has progressed from it. After winning three Champions League titles in a row, Madrid has been eliminated in the last 16 in each of the last two seasons. This time it may not even get that far. The defeat last week against a second string Shakhtar Donetsk felt freakish, the result of an abysmal first half. But two familiar traits stood out, worryingly: Madrid’s physical timidity and the lethargic nature of much of its attacking. Against Monchengladbach, Madrid again was outmatched both physically and for speed, and again it looked dully predictable going forward. If Madrid’s hope was that victory in Saturday’s Clasico was a sign that all was suddenly well at the club, it was soon dashed. In retrospect, that win perhaps merely highlighted how far Barcelona had fallen. As Barcelona’s president Josep Bartomeu resigned Tuesday with the comment that he and its board had approved the club’s involvement in a yet-to-exist European Super League, it was impossible to avoid the thought that you can see why Europe’s elite feel like they need it, if this is how they’re going to play against the team currently sixth in the Bundesliga. All the familiar problems, all the issues that have beset Real Madrid against Cadiz and then Shakhtar were there again in Germany. Zidane’s side began well enough against an unusually cautious Monchenladbach, and perhaps there was a confidence there in the early stages. But there was a lack of pace and imagination about its play, and the longer the first half wore on, the more comfortable Monchenladbach appeared. Over the past couple of years, Spanish sides have repeatedly struggled against physically aggressive sides. Whenever Monchenladbach pressed, Madrid looked uneasy, and the opening goal stemmed from Toni Kroos twice being dispossessed in quick succession. Marcus Thuram side-footed home powerfully, but the goal was created by a remarkably precise nutmeg pass from Alassane Plea after Sergio Ramos had been drawn out of the back line to deal, not especially effectively, with a long ball. Madrid began the second half as it had the first, with a flurry of attacking, and Marcos Asensio, who had been by far its most dangerous player, hit the bar with a bouncing volley. But the sloppiness remained. As Thuram advanced just before the hour mark, nobody closed him down. Plea’s volley was saved by Thibaut Courtois, but, with Ferlan Mendy loitering lazily by the goal line where he’d been unable to prevent a cross, Thuram was kept onside to tap in the rebound. Only a fine save from Courtois then prevented Plea putting Madrid 3-0 behind for the second Champions League game in a row, and two other fine chances were squandered. By the final 10 minutes, though, Monchenladbach was exhausted. It had opportunities to break, plenty of them, but weary limbs misplaced passes and weary brains chose the wrong option. At the same time, some sort of muscle memory kicked in for Madrid, and it began to ramp up the pressure. Karim Benzema pulled one back, as Casemiro strained to keep the ball in play with a header beyond the back post. Then, three minutes into injury time, Casemiro slammed in the equalizer as Sergio Ramos headed back across goal for him. The sense of Spanish decline was intensified by events back in Madrid, where Atletico squeaked an unconvincing 3-2 win over Salzburg thanks to Joao Felix’s second goal five minutes from time. Again though, the Spanish team was rattled by opponents with far fewer resources who looked sharper and smarter. After a 4-0 defeat at Bayern Munich last week, Atletico can at least be relatively confident of progress. Real Madrid, though, faces Inter in each of its next two games. Antonio Conte’s side had much the better of a 0-0 draw against Shakhtar but, not for the first time, failed to make the most of its domination. Its pressing and pace, though, will trouble Madrid. The cracks the late comeback papered over could very quickly be exposed next week.

Champions League fact or fiction: Man United are among favorites, Real Madrid won’t escape the group

2:15 PM ETBill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

This year’s Champions League compressed group stage is a pedal-to-the-metal sprint — three straight midweek contests, two weeks off, then three more midweek affairs. The odds are shifting and swaying constantly, and they will do so again next week. One-third of the way through, let’s step back and see what has and hasn’t changed, fact-or-fiction style.

Manchester United has helped itself the most so far

FACT. Comparing FiveThirtyEight’s Champions League projections from after the draw was made to this week, we find that a few teams have either taken care of business or benefited from others’ failure to do the same.

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Biggest increase in odds of advancement to knockout rounds, per FiveThirtyEight:

— Manchester United: up 45 percentage points, from 49% to 94%
— Shakhtar Donetsk: up 31 percentage points (28% to 59%)
— Lazio: up 20 percentage points (36% to 56%)
— Sevilla: up 17 percentage points (75% to 92%)
— Atletico Madrid (from 67% to 82%), Porto (46% to 61%) and Club Brugge (29% to 44%): all up 15 percentage points

United’s form through two matches has been devastating. They are one of four teams with a goal differential of at least +5 so far. (The others? Bayern MunichBarcelona and Manchester City.) Granted, Bayern’s 4-0 win over Atletico was all sorts of impressive, but after beating PSG in Paris last week, United absolutely pummeled RB Leipzig — defending Champions League semifinalist and current Bundesliga leaders — by a 5-0 mark on Wednesday.Against Leipzig, United played the organized, no-quality-shots defense that earned them a Champions League spot last season — something they lacked at the start of Premier League play in September — and got a lovely goal from a just-onside Mason Greenwood in the 21st minute. After sitting back and remaining organized for most of the second half, they unleashed counterattacking hell on RBL, scoring four goals (three from Marcus Rashford) in a period of 18 minutes towards the end.

United have transformed Group H’s Group of Death status into a two-way death battle for the moment. Obviously they need this form to continue, but as things currently stand, they’re in great shape to win the group, while the loser of next week’s PSG-Leipzig battle is staring Europa League qualification in the face.

Real Madrid has hurt itself the most

FICTION. Zenit St. Petersburg has, but Los Blancos are close.

Biggest decrease in odds of advancement to knockout rounds, per FiveThirtyEight:

— Zenit St. Petersburg: down 38 percentage points, from 56% to 18%
— RB Leipzig: down 26 percentage points (65% to 39%)
— Real Madrid: down 25 percentage points (78% to 53%)
— FC Salzburg: down 21 percentage points (38% to 17%)
— Paris Saint-Germain: down 17 percentage points (84% to 67%)

No one had a more disappointing first 170 minutes of the Champions League than Zinedine Zidane‘s squad. They gave up three first-half goals to Shakhtar last week and failed to equalize during a late charge. They then gave up two Marcus Thuram goals in the first 60 minutes at Borussia Monchengladbach and looked to have no answers whatsoever until goals from Karim Benzema, three minutes before stoppage time, and Casemiro, three minutes into stoppage time, salvaged a point.They remain in last place in Group B, but thanks to the 0-0 draw between Shakhtar and Inter, no one in the group has more than four points and Real’s slate is still reasonably manageable if they figure out how not to fall behind by multiple goals in every match moving forward.While three of eight groups already have two teams with odds of 90% or greater to advance, per FiveThirtyEight, and three more have one over 90% and another over 60%, Group B is an absolute mess. All four teams are between 36% (Gladbach) and 59% (Shakhtar).Inter Milan, the second-best team in the group on paper, has failed to take advantage of Real’s struggles. They generated 3.5 xG to Gladbach’s 1.5 last week, but came away with a 2-2 draw. This week, they completely shut down Shakhtar and produced a 1.8 to 0.1 xG advantage, only to leave Donetsk with a scoreless draw despite some extremely high-quality chances for both Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Inter’s failings have kept the door open for not only Real, but also the group’s two underdogs.

The Champions League is a game for the veteran teams

FICTION. The kids have been awesome so far.

Sixteen players have scored at least two goals so far, and while that list does include some elderly gentlemen — Barcelona’s 33-year-old Lionel Messi, Manchester City’s 30-year-old Ilkay Gundogan — it also features nine plays aged 23 or younger. Rashford (22) leads the way with four goals, while some of the game’s youngest stars have showed up in a major way: Borussia Dortmund‘s Erling Haaland, Atletico’s Joao Felix, Man City’s Ferran Torres, PSG’s Moise Kean and FC Salzburg’s Dominik Szoboszlai are all 20 years old and in possession of a pair of goals.

It goes beyond goals, too:

— PSG’s Kylian Mbappe (somehow still 21) is tied for the assists lead with two.

— Mbappe, Szoboszlai, BVB’s Jadon Sancho (20), RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku (22) and Liverpool‘s Trent Alexander-Arnold (22) are among the 19 players with at least five chances created.

— Alexander-Arnold, Szoboszlai, RBL’s Dayot Upamecano (22), Salzburg’s Mohamed Camara (20), Ajax’s Perr Schuurs (20), Shakhtar’s Dodo (21) and Atalanta‘s Cristian Romero (22) are among the 17 players with at least 17 ball recoveries.

— Szoboszlai, Haaland, Juve’s Dejan Kulusevski (20) and Barcelona’s Trincao (20) are among only 11 players with at least four possessions won in the attacking third.

— Mbappe, Salzburg’s Enock Mwepu (22), Midtjylland’s Jens Cajuste (21) and Shakhtar’s Tete (20) are among 12 players with a take-on success rate of at least 50% in at least 10 attempts.

Szoboszlai might have been the most productive player in the tournament so far, and no matter what the category, you’ll find quite a few players who aren’t yet able to drink legally (or at least rent a car) in America just yet.

The Premier League will get four teams into the knockout rounds for the fourth straight year

FACT. FiveThirtyEight gives all four Premier League participants — Liverpool, City, United and Chelsea — at least a 93% chance to advance. City is at 98%, and the only points these four have dropped at all came in Chelsea’s home draw against Sevilla. While there’s still time for a collapse, there is at the moment an 80% chance of all four advancing to the knockouts and only a 2% chance that two or fewer make it.

What they do when they get to the knockouts, we’ll see. The last three years have seen a wide array of fortune. In 2020, Premier League teams occupied one-quarter of the knockout slots but advanced only one team to the quarterfinals and none to the semis. In 2018, the league advanced five teams but got only two to the quarters and one to the semis.In 2019, meanwhile, the Premier League basically ran the competition, advancing all four teams to the quarterfinals and occupying both finals spots. The group stages are a chance for a league to show collective strength — and the Premier League has that in droves at the moment — but the knockout rounds add a healthy dose of randomness to the proceedings.

La Liga’s eight-year streak of getting 3+ team into the knockout rounds will end

FICTION, but it looked like fact well into Tuesday’s matches.

La Liga appears stuck in the past a bit, and not only because Barcelona is still giving Messi, Gerard PiqueSergio Busquets and Jordi Alba a lot of minutes.

While attacking is on the rise and scoring is up in Europe’s other major leagues, it’s all down in Spain: per 90 minutes, goals have fallen from 1.24 per team to 1.07, shots from 11.3 to 10.3, shots on goal from 3.9 to 3.5 and xG from 1.4 to 1.2. While Serie A has nine teams averaging at least two goals per match, the Premier League has eight and the Bundesliga has four, only two La Liga teams hit that mark, and none average more than 2.0. One of them is Atletico Madrid.

Let me rephrase: Diego Simeone’s Atletico is leading the league in scoring!A lack of goals alone doesn’t mean the quality of play is low, of course. Atletico, Athletic BilbaoReal Sociedad, Sevilla, league newcomer Cadiz and others are all playing dynamite defense, allowing both low shot quality and low shot quantity.The Champions League has thus far shown us that this isn’t only because of quality defense, however. There’s also a lack of tactical answers.Sevilla is in great shape to advance because of said defense, but they’ve scored only once in two matches. Atletico got completely outclassed by Bayern and couldn’t prevent Salzburg from generating a run of high-quality chances in the middle of Tuesday’s match in Madrid. Meanwhile, in response to deficits against both Shakhtar and Gladbach, Real had few answers beyond sending hopeful crosses into the box or attempting long bombs. Through 70 minutes on Tuesday, Gladbach had generated more xG in seven shot attempts (1.31) than Real had in 17 (1.24).Luckily for both Madrid clubs, as their matches passed the 80-minute mark on Tuesday, both Gladbach and Salzburg ran out of gas. They were attempting to spring forward into counterattacks as they had all game, but their legs weren’t following and their collective first touch made it seem like they were playing in metal boots. Within 10 minutes, Atletico had scored to go up 3-2, and Real had scored twice to tie Gladbach. Pure talent, experience and endurance had won out, if only barely.These respective rallies changed the league’s odds of Champions League success quite a bit. As things now stand, Barcelona has a 99% chance of advancing (again per FiveThirtyEight), Sevilla is at 92% and Atletico is at 82%. Real Madrid has work to do (53%), but has a fighting chance to pull it off. Mashing these odds together, we see that the league has a 40% chance of advancing all four teams to the knockouts and a 48% chance of advancing three. While the league has enjoyed only two semifinal appearances in the last three years, its streak of having lots of teams in the round of 16 will at least continue to survive.

Real Madrid-Inter Milan is the biggest match of Matchday 3

FACT, followed closely by RB Leipzig-PSG.

Indeed, group hierarchies have mostly been established at this point. It will now take a couple of solid upsets to prevent Bayern and Atletico from advancing from Group A, Chelsea and Sevilla from Group E, or Barcelona and Juventus from Group G; per FiveThirtyEight’s odds, Groups C (Manchester City and Porto), D (Liverpool and Atalanta) and H (Manchester United and PSG) have established favorites too.

We still need quite a bit of clarity from the blurry Group B, however, and while a match between Real Madrid and Inter — two of only eight clubs to have won the European Cup/Champions League multiple times — will always seem pretty big, this one’s huge. The teams will meet in Madrid on Tuesday, then play again at San Siro when Champions League play resumes at the end of the month.

Depending on how things play out, a very good team could end up with lots of work to do in its final two matches. Of course, this means that Group B’s other match next week is also quite big.Biggest matches of Matchday 3:

— Group B: Inter Milan at Real Madrid on Tuesday. Both teams have a 53% chance of advancing, per FiveThirtyEight. That obviously skews dramatically if one team pulls off an outright win.

— Group H: PSG at RB Leipzig on Wednesday. The last time these teams played, PSG was running circles around RBL in the Champions League semis. If RBL wants any chance of getting back to the late stages, they’ll need a very different result this time.

— Group B: Borussia Mönchengladbach (36% chance of advancing) at Shakhtar Donetsk (59%) on Tuesday. Shakhtar’s odds could skyrocket with a win and an Inter-Real draw.

— Group D: Liverpool (93%) at Atalanta (62%) on Wednesday. Liverpool has a 73% chance of winning the group, but the Reds’ lineup remains in flux, and Atalanta can even those odds significantly with a strong performance.

— Group C: Manchester City at Olympiacos on Tuesday. A disappointing performance against Porto diminished Olympiacos’ odds significantly — they’re now at only 33% to advance — and they’ll need a significant upset to get back on even terms.

— Group F: Club Brugge at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. BVB began the tournament with a dud at Lazio, but their win over Zenit, and a diminished Lazio squad’s draw in Bruges, gave them second life. A home win over Brugge would put them in excellent shape.

Manchester United are going to win the Champions League while finishing seventh in the Premier League, aren’t they?

FICTION. They’re going to win it while finishing 12th.

Actually, whom are we kidding? That’s FICTION, too. Bayern’s winning this thing, again.

FC Cincinnati looking forward as they say goodbye to their Nippert Stadium cradle | Charles Boehm

October 29, 20207:37AM EDTCharles BoehmNational Writer

FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding was abruptly interrupted as he began to answer a reporter’s question a little more than halfway through a Wednesday morning outdoor media availability at Nippert Stadium.It wasn’t a pushy journalist, but a top-of-the-hour tolling of bells near the University of Cincinnati’s on-campus arena, loud enough to impose a minute-long wait on the proceedings — and a timely metaphor for FCC’s curtain call at their birthplace and home for the past five years.Cincy hosted Sporting KC on Wednesday for their final match at Nippert, going down to a 1-0 defeat. Next season they’ll move into their new West End Stadium, a gorgeous soccer-centric venue some two miles to the south, closer to the heart of the city and seemingly a strong contender to become one of the most appealing grounds in MLS from the moment it debuts.Bitter disappointment swirls around FCC and their fans as COVID-19 risk mitigation forces them to bid farewell to Nippert behind closed doors. The intimate college football venue, which hosted its first event way back in 1901, proved a perfect place to hatch the club and spark the city’s soccer renaissance.Technically speaking, the Orange-and-Blue climbed not one but two levels of the North American soccer pyramid at Nippert, first taking the pitch in USL in 2016 when that league occupied the third tier, then topping out as USL Championship regular-season winners in 2018 before joining MLS last year.The stadium’s atmosphere and dimensions, paired with savvy marketing by the club to pack the house routinely and showcase the impressive supporter culture of “the Bailey” section, made FCC a head-turning success right out of the gate. They drew particular attention for the spirited crowds cheering their Cinderella run to the semifinals of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup.“Even without fans, I think it looks nice, I think it’s a good stadium to play at for the players. It’s got something special,” head coach Jaap Stam, who thanks to the pandemic has never had the chance to witness first-hand a loud night at Nippert, said on Monday. “Changes are being made. You want to grow the club as well. We’re building a new ground, as everybody knows. So hopefully we can eventually make history over there.”A sobering season of expansion struggle left a bruise or two, and Cincy are still looking up at the rest of the Eastern Conference in the standings as they close out 2020. Stam is their fourth coach in two years. The roster remains a work in progress. And their 11 goals scored in 21 matches ranks worst in the league by some margin, a product of a defense-first approach to stop the bleeding and build a sturdier foundation.It’s time for a new chapter, and the move to the West End provides a timely tentpole in that regard.Even as GM Gerard Nijkamp preaches patience on the ongoing rebuild, FCC’s leaders emphasize their desire and capacity to contend for honors from the opening day of their new place. They also believe that modern amenities and creature comforts like a full roof, steeply-raked stands with fans in close proximity to the pitch and a grass surface instead of Nippert’s artificial turf can amplify the cauldron they’ve been tending over at UC.“We’re proud of our pricing, we’re proud of the homework and research that went into the stadium. You look behind me at the incredible visual of the Bailey, and the unwavering support of our best fans – our supporters of FC Cincinnati will have the ultimate home in West End Stadium,” Senior VP of Sales & Ticketing Jeff Smith said on Wednesday, noting that FCC’s 4,500 club seats have already sold out.“We nearly doubled the size of the Bailey, with unbelievable amenities in the stadium, a chair-back seat for everyone. All the seats are under cover, unprecedented food and beverage experiences, and the ultimate proximity of our seats to the action. We believe that West End stadium will provide the ultimate fan experience in Cincinnati. So, a fun day today as we celebrate the past. We look at our history, but we continue to move forward and transition into 2021.”Cincy and their fans put in incredible work to come this far this fast. Now the future looms, a graduation of sorts. It’s the job of Stam and Nijkamp to have them ready to go full-bore from the jump in the West End, with a stronger squad and a more proactive playing style. The clock is ticking down to next spring.

HACKSHAW, PASHER NAMED TO USL CHAMPIONSHIP 2020 ALL-LEAGUE SECOND TEAM

By Indy Eleven Communications, 10/28/20, 1:30PM EDTShare


Boys in Blue Duo Earn All-League Nod Following Standout Performances

The United Soccer League honored standout performers from the regular season on Wednesday with the announcement of the 2020 USL Championship All-League Teams, which included Indy Eleven defender Neveal Hackshaw and forward Tyler Pasher being named to the All-League Second Team.“Congratulations to Tyler and Neveal for being recognized in the Championship’s All-League Second Team,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “Both players did well this challenging season and deserve the accolades that come their way.”Hackshaw ranked third in the league in passes completed with 791 and led all outfield players in total recoveries (151). In addition to leading the team in blocks (10) and interceptions (24), the Trinidad and Tobago international found flashes of brilliance in the attacking third, notching two goals on six shots and creating seven chances for his teammates.  This marks the second consecutive All-League Team selection for the 25-year-old Hackshaw after he garnered a spot on the First Team – and a Defender of the Year nomination – for his standout performance in 2019.Pasher earned his All-League debut after another stellar performance in the attacking half of the pitch. The 26-year-old started the season on the front foot, tallying six goals in six games in one of the fastest starts in USL Championship history, a feat that earned him the league’s Player of the Month award in July. The Canadian winger-turned-striker finished the regular season tied for seventh on the Championship’s Golden Boot chart with 10 goals, bringing his Indy career total to 24 and placing him just two behind Eleven all-time leading scorer Eamon Zayed. Pasher also finished the year with two assists, led the team in chances created (30), and ranked third across the league in shots (50).The 2020 USL Championship All-League Team was voted on by club management and a league-wide media panel that included representation from every USL market.With 2020 now in the book, Indy Eleven continues to prepare for the upcoming 2021 USL Championship season. Deposits for new 2021 Season Ticket Members are now available at IndyEleven.com/2021-season-tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

2020 USL CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-LEAGUE SECOND TEAM

GK – Brandon Miller, Charlotte Independence: Miller earned the second All-League selection of his career after a stellar campaign that helped the Independence return to the USL Championship Playoffs for the first time since 2017. Miller led the league with 61 saves and recorded five shutouts with a save percentage of 73.5 percent.

D – Leland Archer, Charleston Battery: Archer’s third season with the Battery saw the Trinidad & Tobago center back produce a breakout campaign as he recorded 50 clearances and 95 recoveries while posting a passing accuracy rate of 80.1 percent in the middle of a strong Battery back line that helped the side earn its 13th consecutive postseason berth overall.

D – Alex Crognale, Birmingham Legion FC: One of Birmingham’s key offseason arrivals, Crognale was stellar in the center of the club’s defense as he finished tied for fourth in the league with 73 clearances and also made 73 recoveries while completing the fifth-most passes in the league (757) at an accuracy rate of 85.8 percent.

D – Neveal Hackshaw, Indy Eleven: The Trinidad & Tobago international earned his second consecutive selection to the All-League Team after another strong year for Indy. Hackshaw ranked third in the league in passes completed with 791, led all outfield players with 151 recoveries and made 24 interceptions for the Boys in Blue.

D – Jordan Scarlett, Tampa Bay Rowdies: One part of the Rowdies’ defensive makeover during the offseason, Scarlett was ever-present for Tampa Bay as he made 63 clearances and 34 interceptions defensively while notching a goal and assist in attack. Scarlett also recorded four Big Chances Created as his timing in the penalty area added another weapon for the Rowdies on set pieces.

M – Christiano Francois, Reno 1868 FC: The Haiti international continued to be one of the most electrifying wingers in the league as he recorded six goals and seven assists to help Reno record the best record in the regular season. Francois notched 33 chances created and completed 31 dribbles, consistently putting opposing defenses on the back foot.

M – Kevin Partida, Reno 1868 FC: In his third season with Reno – including a stint on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes in 2019 – Partida served as the pivot in the center of midfield that helped Reno succeed. The Nevada native sported a passing accuracy rate of 82.1 percent on 51.4 passes per 90 minutes and won 61.9 percent of his duels to help 1868 FC to the best record in the Championship.

M – Chris Wehan, New Mexico United: Earning his second All-League selection of his career, Wehan was one of the key figures in New Mexico’s return to the Championship Playoffs for a second consecutive season. The attacking midfielder recorded six goals and four assists while recording 21 chances created, but came up with three game-winning goals for his side as it reached the postseason despite playing its full schedule on the road.

F – Rufat Dadashov, Phoenix Rising FC: The Azerbaijani international made a big impact in his first game for Rising FC with a hat trick and continued to find the net consistently to lead the squad to the top of Group B. Dadashov recorded 11 goals and four assists in the regular season, but was also notable in his link-up play that saw him register 21 key passes and a passing accuracy rate of 72.4 percent overall.

F – Dane Kelly, Charlotte Independence: The Championship’s all-time leading scorer produced a return to form in his first season with the Independence, scoring 11 goals to lead Charlotte back to the postseason for the first time in three seasons. Kelly also notched a pair of assists as he earned the fourth All-League selection of his career.

F – Tyler Pasher, Indy Eleven: In his second season as an out-and-out striker, the Canadian standout got out to one of the fastest starts in the Championship’s history with six goals in Indy’s first six games and finished the regular season with 10 goals and two assists while notching a passing accuracy rate of 83.5 percent to earn his first All-League selection.

10/23 El Classico, El Traffico & Man U vs Chelsea Sat 12:30 NBC lead the Weekend Games, Champ League Tues/Wed 7 American’s play!

El Classico between a reeling Real Madrid and Barcelona leads the big games this weekend as they kick off at 10 am on Saturday on beIN Sport. El Classico is the biggest club game in the world and will be watched by over 2 million people worldwide.  Manchester United will host Chelsea and American Christian Pulisic at 12:30 pm Saturday on NBC.  Ok American Soccer Fans – We’ll get a chance to see if Pulisic can help pull the American market in a real game against a marquee team like United!  Also at 12:30 pm on Sat on ESPN+ Dortmund and American Gio Reyna will host Schalke in one of the most heated Derby’s in Soccer.  And Finally on Sunday – El Traffico – as LAFC hosts LA Galaxy on ABC at 3:30 pm.  We have asked for Big Soccer games on Network TV folks – so here they are this weekend !! Will American’s tune-in to watch soccer over football? 

Champions League is Back Tues/Wed – Group Stage Matchday 2

Ah it was great to have Champions League back (even in empty stadiums).  Hugely exciting to have Champions League games with American’s not just playing but starting and playing important roles.  Pulisic started for Chelsea on the right side but was mainly held in check in the 0-0 tie at home vs Spanish Side – but US Players in prominent roles on 9 of the teams.  Gio Reyna had an assist in his game as he came on at the half of Dortmunds’ surprising 3-1 loss at Lazio. Adams played center back in a 5 man back line for RB Leipzig in their 2-0 win and of course Dest, 19, started for Barcelona in their 3-0 win.  In total a new Record of 5 American’s played Tuesday here’s how they ended up.  The best might have been GK Ethan Horvath who made a surprise start in goal for Club Brugge – he made 3 or 4 incredible saves to help them secure the 2-1 upset at Zenit.  It was his first game in almost a year as he normally backs up Belgium star Simon Mignolet who had covid.  Can’t wait to see how the American’s do this week!  Here’s the standing’s after Matchday 1.

Man is there a team more dependant on one player than Real Madrid?  In their second game without Center back and Captain Sergio Ramos – Real gave up 3 first half goals to an undermanned Shakkar team and honestly should have given up 2 or 3 more. They fought back for 2 in the 2nd half at home but the equalizer was overruled by VAR leaving Madrid with a first game lost at 3-2. The “marquee” matchup ended up being a dud as Champions Bayern Munich took control in the 2nd half at home to defeat Atletico 2-0.  (sad not to have American Chris Richards-injured, or Canadian Alphonso Davies playing.) 

I will give credit to CBS – the wrap around coverage on CBS Sports Network was pretty cool showing scores for all the games and goals and shots on replay every time one happened.  Not bad coverage.  Now if we can get the to cover the post game and pre game shows the way they are on CBS All Access all will be good.  Again AA is fine I hate that you can’t go back and watch a goal you may have missed though.  The Live only coverage with no ability to re-wind really sux for a PAID Service.  But one step at a time I suppose.   

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Oct 24  

7:30 am Peacock                                Man City vs West Ham

9:30 am ESPN+                                  Bayern Munich vs Frankfort (Chandler)  

9:30 am ESN+                                    RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Hertha Berlin

10 am NBCSN                                    Fulham vs Crystal Palace

10 am beIN Sport             Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona EL CLASSICO

12:30 pm NBC                  Man United vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

12:30 am ESPN+                            Borrusia Dortmund (Gio Reyna) vs Schalke

3  pm Peacock                      Liverpool vs Sheffield United  

3:30 pm ESPN+                               Inter Miami vs Orlando City SC

Sun, Oct 25

10 am NBCSN                                    Everton vs Southampton  

12:30 pm NBC                     Wolverhampton vs New Castle

3pm ABC                     LAFC vs LA GALAXY – EL TRAFFICO

3:15 pm Peacock                 Arsenal vs Leicester City

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tuesday, October 27

Lokotomiv Moscow vs. Bayern Munich (Richards), 1:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Inter Milan 1:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Atletico Madrid vs. RB Salzburg, 4pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Real Madrid, 4pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Porto vs. Olympiacos (Champions League Group Stag, 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Marseille vs. Man City, 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Atalanta vs. Ajax (Mendez) 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Liverpool vs. Midtjylland 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)

Wednesday, October 28

Krasnodar vs. Chelsea (Pulisic) 1:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Istanbul Basaksehir vs. PSG, 1:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Sevilla vs. Rennes 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Brugge (Horvath GK) vs. Lazio  4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Dortmund (Reyna) vs. Zenit 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Ferencvaros vs. Dynamo Kyiv , 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Juventus (McKinney) vs. Barcelona (Dest) , 4pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Man United vs. RB Leipzig (Adams), 4pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV

EUROPE


Clasico, Dortmund v Schalke – what to look out for in Europe this weekend

‘It won’t be the same’ – silent Clasico leaves fans feeling empty
Ibrahimovic defies Father Time to set up Milan’s derby victory  19mGabriele Marcotti
 USA
Americans Abroad weekend preview

Juventus confirm USMNT’s McKennie recovered from COVID-19
Americans Abroad: Pulisic returns; Reyna’s hat trick of assists; Dest debuts
Dest makes debut for Barcelona as first American player
Berhalter: Wouldn’t be happy if Sebastian Soto chooses Chile

Tobin Heath, Christen Press Manchester United jerseys outsell male counterparts
Report: Salzburg buys USMNT teen Aaronson from Philadelphia

MLS

Supporters’ Shield to be awarded following reversal of decision
LAFC vs. Galaxy: How many El Tráficos are too many for one season?

Twellman on why Galaxy are “soft” and LAFC are still most dangerous in West

Seltzer: Picking every game this weekend

Alonso: Miami-Orlando is more than a clasico, it’s a final

Zakuani: 3 things we learned from Seattle’s dramatic draw with Portland

Seattle ruin Portland’s “perfect game” but both rivals say draw is a good sign

Head injury subs in soccer moving closer to reality

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Champions League’s ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to reach final, Sevilla to semis
UCL stats: Suarez’s 12 reasons to hate Bayern, Madrid’s misery without Ramos
Shock-tar! Real Madrid stunned in UCL opener
Porto boss slams Guardiola for touchline antics
Man City win UCL opener but will need to eliminate mistakes to finally reach the elusive summit
Liverpool win not ‘sunny, shiny’ football – Klopp
Liverpool’s win over Ajax steadied Klopp’s side after a rocky week
Late Hassan goal gives Olympiakos win over Marseille
Lukaku rescues late draw for Inter at home to Gladbach
Manchester City come back for 3-1 win over Porto
Zapata inspires Atalanta to comfortable win at Midtjylland
Rampant Coman stars as Bayern thrash Atletico
Liverpool hold on to win without Van Dijk
Zidane: ‘Bad game, bad night’ for Real Madrid
Eder Militao 3/10, Varane 4/10 as Real suffer shock UCL defeat to Shakhtar
Salzburg let Lokomotiv off the hook in 2-2 draw
UCL stats: Suarez’s 12 reasons to hate Bayern, Madrid’s misery without Ramos
Liverpool’s win over Ajax steadied Klopp’s side after a rocky week
Man City win UCL opener but will need to eliminate mistakes to finally reach the elusive summit
Rashford outdoes Neymar, Mbappe as Man United’s Paris hero again
    3dMark Ogden

It’s time for Chelsea to start justifying its £220m summer spending spree with results  3dJames Olley

Tuesday, 20 October 2020
FT+12:55pmZenit 1 – 2 Club BruggefuboTVGalavisionTUDN.comUnivision NO…
FT+3:00pmBarcelona 5 – 1 FerencvárosfuboTVTUDN USAUniMásTUDN.comUniv…
FT+3:00pmChelsea 0 – 0 SevillafuboTVTUDN.comTUDNxtraCBS All Acce…
FT+3:00pmLazio 3 – 1 Borussia DortmundfuboTVTUDN.comTUDNxtraCBS All Acce…
FT+3:00pmPSG 1 – 2 Manchester UnitedfuboTVGalavisionTUDN.comUnivision NO…
FT+3:00pmRB Leipzig 2 – 0 İstanbul BaşakşehirfuboTVTUDN.comTUDNxtraCBS All Acce…
FT+3:00pmRennes 1 – 1 KrasnodarfuboTVTUDN.comTUDNxtraCBS All Acce…
Wednesday, 21 October 2020
FT+12:55pmReal Madrid 2 – 3 Shakhtar DonetskfuboTVTUDN USAUniMásTUDN.comUniv…
FT+12:55pmSalzburg 2 – 2 Lokomotiv MoskvafuboTVGalavisionTUDN.comUnivision NO…
FT+3:00pmAjax 0 – 1 LiverpoolfuboTVTUDN.comTUDNxtraCBS All Acce…

The Future of the CCL–in 2020 and BeyondBY BRIAN STRAUS

Indy 11 Falls to St. Louis Out of Playoffs – The Game Beckons Blogspot

10/19/20 Champions League on CBS AA, CBSSN, Most US Players ever in UCL

Champions League is Back Tues/Wed – Group Stage

As the Champions League kicks back into gear  – just 2 months after the late wrap-up saw Bayern Munich raise the trophy, we get the excitement of not just great soccer – but US Players in prominent roles on 9 of the teams.  From more established players like Christian Pulisic for Chelsea, or Tyler Adams for Red Bull Leipzig, and Gio Reyna at Dortmund to Weston McKinney now at Italian powerhouse Juventus, and Sergio Dest at Spanish Giant Barcelona.  All of these players (under the age of 25) look to be starting for their respective clubs during the group stage games.  McKinney does have Covid and may miss this week’s games along with the injured Chris Richards 20 year old Right back of Bayern Munich who is also expected back by Matchday 3 at the latest.  Click for a full list of American’s suiting up in the competition.   

Of course not sure how we are watching Champions League here in the US this year – I did break down and buy CBS All Access now that I can see it using my roku stick– so I can watch the American’s play in English.  Of course if you have Univision (TUDN), Unimas and Galavisions or FuboTV you can always watch in Spanish still without having to pay the extra $5 a month in streaming costs.  Now CBS Sports Network is debuting a Wrap-Around coverage GOLAZO– (think NFL Red Zone) and I am excited to see how they handle that.  I could see watching 1 game on all Access or in Spanish and the other TV on CBSSN for GOLAZO Coverage which starts at 2:30 pm.  We’ll have to see how they handle it.  World Soccer Talk breaks it down here.   I can say that I was impressed with CBS coverage of the Final 4 and Final games last season with a 90 minute pre-game and 60 to 90 minute postgame delivered on CBS All Access.  We’ll see how they do and how CBSN SN handles their coverage as well.   Must watch games to see American’s play will include Chelsea and Pulisic vs Spanish Euro Legends Sevilla at 3 pm Tues on CBS AA and Dortmund and Gio Reyna at the same time on CBS AA.  Of course the big game is Man United traveling to 2019 Runner-ups PSG at 3 pm on Galavision and CBS AA at 3 pm.   Wednesday the only American set to play should be Alex Mendez of Ajax vs Liverpool at 3 pm on TUDN Extra and CBS AA.  The big game of the day on Wed is either Bayern Munich (with American defender Chris Richards out injured) hosting Atletico Madrid at 3 pm on Unimas and CBS AA. 

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TV SCHEDULE

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tuesday, October 20 

Zenit St Petersburg vs. 12:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Juventus (McKinney) 12:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Rennes vs. Krasnodar 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Chelsea (Pulisic) vs. Sevilla 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Lazio vs. Dortmund (Reyna)  3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Barcelona (Dest) vs. Ferencvaros , 3pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
PSG vs. Man United 3pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
RB Leipzig (Adams) vs. Istanbul Basaksehir 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)

Wednesday, October 21

RB Salzburg vs. Lokomotiv Moscow 12:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Real Madrid vs. Shakhtar Donetsk 12:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Bayern Munich (Richards) vs. Atletico Madrid 3pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Inter Milan vs. Borussia Monchengladbach 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Olympiacos vs. Marseille 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Man City vs. Porto 3pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Ajax vs. Liverpool 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Midtjylland vs. Atalanta 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)

Tuesday, October 27

Lokotomiv Moscow vs. Bayern Munich (Richards), 1:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Inter Milan 1:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Atletico Madrid vs. RB Salzburg, 4pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Real Madrid, 4pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Porto vs. Olympiacos (Champions League Group Stag, 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Marseille vs. Man City, 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Atalanta vs. Ajax  4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Liverpool vs. Midtjylland 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)

Wednesday, October 28

Kranodar vs. Chelsea (Pulisic) 1:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV
Istanbul Basaksehir vs. PSG, 1:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Sevilla vs. Rennes 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Brugge vs. Lazio  4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Dortmund (Reyna) vs. Zenit 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Ferencvaros vs. Dynamo Kyiv , 4pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (in Spanish) and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Juventus (McKinney) vs. Barcelona (Dest) , 4pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access and fuboTV (in Spanish)
Man United vs. RB Leipzig (Adams), 4pm, Galavision, CBS All Access and fuboTV

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Champions League matchday 1: Man United underdogs at PSG, will Liverpool thrive without Van Dijk?
Champions League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions
Champ League Predictions – yahoo soccer
Leipzig to launch European campaign in front of 999 fans

Reluctant travellers Dortmund set to play makeshift defence at Lazio

Maguire out, Fernandes to captain Man Utd against PSG

USA

Look out Champions League, here comes the USMNT  6dESPN
Gio Reyna, U.S. stars on Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s radar

McKinney to miss UCL Matchday 1 has Covid 19

Viewers’ Guide to 2020–21 UEFA Champions League

With the 2020–21 Champions League group stage set to begin, here’s how viewers in the U.S. can take in all the action.

AVI CREDITOR OCT 15, 2020 SI

Another UEFA Champions League season, another new set of viewing patterns for fans to learn and memorize.Less than two months after Bayern Munich defeated Paris Saint-Germain in Portugal to win the 2019–20 Champions League title, the quest for the 2020–21 trophy begins. And with CBS Sports taking the baton from Turner Sports a year (and a few months) ahead of schedule, English-speaking viewers will have to pivot when making plans to watch Europe’s premier club competition. Of course, there’s nothing stopping English-speaking viewers from watching in Spanish, and Univision will continue to be airing games on its platforms this season as well

With the group stage set to begin on Oct. 20–and with 10 U.S. internationals and one American manager in the mix–here’s what you need to know entering another Champions League campaign:

EMPHASIS ON STREAMING

DVERTISEMENT

CBS, like many other networks, is focused on building out its streaming app, with many viewers and cord-cutters opting to get their entertainment in ways other than just cable TV.As a result, there’s a large emphasis on CBS’s All-Access product (soon to be known as Paramount Plus), and every match—along with pre-match and post-match shows—will be available to watch wherever All-Access is available.Once again, there are two match windows per group stage match day, with two games at 12:55 p.m. ET followed by the remaining six at 3 p.m. ET. (There will be that brief period at the end of October where daylight saving time ends in Europe and hasn’t yet in the U.S., and the windows become an hour later, but 12:55 and 3 will otherwise be the standard.) CBS, which also operates CBS Sports HQ (an all-day, free streaming product on CBS’s website), will begin its gameday coverage at 11 a.m. ET on HQ and All-Access, move to a pre-match show on All-Access only at noon and then transition into matchesThe matches that Univision does not have on TV will be available either via its streaming service, TUDNXtra, or FuboTV.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ON TV

In English, CBS will be selective in its television offerings. While every match will go on All-Access, CBS adds that won’t entirely be set in stone throughout, “with select marquee matches also airing on the CBS Television Network and CBS Sports Network through the 2023–24 season.” It remains to be seen what qualifies as a “marquee match,” whether any group stage match will be deemed “marquee” and whether specific player absences play a role in the programming (i.e., if Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, misses Juventus’s first group showdown vs. Lionel Messi’s Barcelona).In Spanish, Univision will be airing “over 75” matches on TV on a regular basis throughout the competition via Univision, UniMas, TUDN and Galavision. For the first two two-part match days, four of a day’s given eight games will be on TV: two on UniMas and TUDN and two on Galavision. The remaining four will be streamed.Univision’s platforms will also feature “Futbol Central,” its pregame show that previews the upcoming matches, and “Mision Europa,” which will cover the highlights and wrap-up material.

RED ZONE MEETS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

One new wrinkle CBS is offering is a whiparound show during matches that will hop from game to game to show goals from around the continent during the window in which six games are being played simultaneously. The Golazo Show will air on CBS Sports Network and All-Access and act as either a complementary screen or a sole focus depending on the viewer’s preference (and attention span).“With multiple matches being played simultaneously across Europe, we wanted to give soccer fans a fun way to experience that excitement and see every goal from every match as well as all the key moments as they happen,” CBS Sports executive VP of programming Dan Weinberg, said in a statement. “The Golazo Show will keep fans updated throughout the day’s action with all the goals and latest results, bringing them highlights as soon as they occur while also providing expert analysis—all at a single destination.”There will also be a Golazo Pre-Match Show that kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET to run down what happened in the day’s first two games and set the stage for what’s to come in the ensuing six.Univision, meanwhile, will return with a second season of Zona Futbol, which is a whiparound show of its own. Those subscribing to participating TV providers will have access to “the best action from concurrent group stage matches as it happens. TUDN experts will guide the audience from game to game across the continent with key context and expert analysis,” according to a Univision statement.

Champions League group stage analysis and predictions: Which teams will advance?

Ryan Bailey

Yahoo Sports•October 19, 2020 https://vplayer.nbcsports.com/p/BxmELC/nbcsports_embed/select/media/kkvY6I_5ZwzP A mere 51 days after Bayern Munich lifted the 2019-20 trophy in Lisbon, the Champions League carousel starts up once again on Tuesday. Read on for Yahoo Soccer’s comprehensive guide to the group stage…

Champions League Group A

Teams: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow, Red Bull Salzburg

The reigning champions may have shown some fragility in recent outings — Bayern conceded an uncharacteristic six times in the three matches before the international break — but they will have little trouble topping Group A. The Bavarians won all six of their group games last season and haven’t lost at this stage since a 3-0 humbling to Paris Saint-Germain in September 2017.

Bayern, however, does not possess a sterling record against Atletico Madrid, who eliminated the Germans at the seminal stage in 2015-16 with a typically tenacious away-goals masterclass. Atleti also defeated Bayern in the group stage in the previous season.

Red Bull Salzburg were especially prolific in the group stage last year, but half of their 16 goals came from Erling Haaland, who has since moved to Borussia Dortmund

Lokomotiv Moscow, meanwhile, boast Portuguese forward Eder, but they finished rock-bottom of their group last season. Expect more of the same here. 

Player to Watch: Robert Lewandowski

Atletico Madrid’s boisterous strikers Diego Costa and Luis Suarez will certainly make headlines — for one reason or another — but Robert Lewandowski is the undoubted star of the show. Last year’s Champions League top scorer struck 10 times in the group stages, and remains paramount to Bayern Munich’s success. 

Prediction: 1. Bayern Munich 2. Atletico Madrid 3. Red Bull Salzburg 4. Lokomotiv Moscow 

Group B

Teams: Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Monchengladbach 

Real Madrid don’t typically struggle at the group stage, but the perennial European titans find themselves in what may be the group with the most parity. 

Los Blancos are usually well equipped to get out of any situation, but they stumbled several times in last season’s group stage, dropping points at home to Club Brugge, and in both meetings with PSG. 

When Zinedine Zidane’s side faced Manchester City in last season’s recent round of 16, they couldn’t handle the pace and press, and that does not bode well for meetings with Inter Milan and Borussia Monchengladbach, both of whom like to press high.

2020 Europa League finalists Inter Milan will be expecting to progress, and they have the tools to do so. Gladbach are the outsiders, competing in the competition for the first time in four years, but have established themselves among the Bundesliga’s elite in the interim. 

Prediction: 1. Inter Milan 2. Real Madrid 3. Borussia Monchengladbach 4. Shakhtar Donetsk

Player to Watch: Romelu Lukaku

If Inter is to make Real Madrid to drop points, their talismanic Belgian striker will have something to do with it. Lukaku scored nine times in European competitions last season, and will likely increase his continental tally this term. 

Group C

Teams: Porto, Manchester City, Olympiakos, Marseille

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and Man City getting a comparatively favorable ride in the Champions League group stage

Pep Guardiola’s men have been the favorites with the bookmakers in the last two campaigns, and only sit behind Bayern Munich in this edition (per BetMGM). They have, however, stumbled against French opposition in recent European contests, being ousted by Lyon at the quarterfinal stage last season.

Marseille, coached by Andre-Villas Boas, finished second in Ligue 1 last season and have strengthened the squad with the likes of Luis Henrique, who arrived from Botafogo over the summer. They will be aiming for second place, and represent a banana peel for the Premier League side. 

But don’t sleep on reigning Portuguese champs Porto, who were seeded in Pot 1 and are technically the top team of the group. However, the 2004 Champions League winners sold Alex Telles and Fabio Silva to Premier League opposition over the summer, and may not be entirely competitive. 

Olympiakos were impressive in last season’s Europa League, but they may struggle to make an impact on this group.   

Prediction: 1. Man City 2. Marseille 3. Porto 4. Olympiakos

Player to Watch: Kevin De Bruyne

Man City’s midfield gem regularly delivers game-changing passes and has proven pivotal to their successes. Outside of City, Marseille will lean heavily on former West Ham star Dimitri Payet. 

Group D

Teams: Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland 

Liverpool’s last Champions League outing saw them suffer at the hands of Atletico Madrid at a packed Anfield, in what would become one of the finals games with a full complement of fans in 2020. All eyes will be on Jurgen Klopp’s side to see if they can regain their furious pace and cloak of invincibility that has slipped since that night in March.

Group D presents what may be the best fixture of the entire group stage: Liverpool’s pair of bouts with Atalanta. The highly entertaining Italians had the mettle and the talent to go deep in the competition last season, and their fearless press will be highly entertaining when it comes up against Klopp’s charges. 

Ajax were a hair from making the 2019 final, but their team has been mined of much of its talent since then. The summer departures of Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech and American defender Sergino Dest will weaken their chances. 

As for FC Midtjylland? Sadly, the plucky Danes rank among the weakest sides in this season’s contest. 

Prediction: 1. Liverpool 2. Atalanta 3. Ajax 4. Midtjylland

Player to Watch: Papu Gomez

Liverpool may have bigger stars, but Atalanta deserve much credit for keeping their squad entirely intact this season, with the exception of departed fullback Timothy Castagne. The Italians have awesome firepower in their ranks — they scored 13 goals in their opening three league games this season — and captain Papu Gomez is more than capable of some dazzling individual skill. 

Group E

Teams: Sevilla, Chelsea, Krasnodar, Rennes

 It’s been a swashbuckling season for Chelsea so far, whose policy of “score now, defend later” remains in place. Frank Lampard has been granted several high-profile signings this summer, and should be in a good position to progress. 

Sevilla, meanwhile, face a problem: If they progress from this group, how will they win the Europa League for the millionth time? 

The Spanish side are true experts in the continent’s secondary continental contest, but stand an excellent chance of topping this group. Julen Lopetegui’s team have been reunited with Ivan Rakitic, and have already caused Barcelona problems on the domestic front this season. They are likely to have more fortitude than Chelsea — certainly from a defensive perspective.

Group E appears to have a clear dichotomy between its top two sides and the other two. Both Krasnodar and Rennes are appearing in the group stage for the first time, and will likely be battling it out for progression to the Europa League. Krasnodar have an awkward away trip to southern Russia to their benefit, but Rennes — who are enjoying a spectacular start to the Ligue 1 season — are likely to nab third place. 

Prediction: 1. Sevilla 2. Chelsea 3. Rennes 4. Krasnodar

Player to Watch: Luuk de Jong

Beyond Chelsea’s American star Christian Pulisic, Sevilla’s Luuk de Jong has certainly shown his credentials on the European stage. The Dutchman scored the winner against Manchester United in last season’s Europa League semifinals, and netted twice in the final against Inter Milan. 

Group F

Teams: Zenit Saint Petersburg, Borussia Dortmund, Lazio, Club Brugge

The headliners here are clearly Borussia Dortmund, who share many traits with Chelsea: excitement going forward, youthfulness and a tendency to capitulate in defense. Lucien Favre’s side will almost certainly progress from a relatively weak group, which may offer star striker Erling Haaland a chance to pad his stats. The group may also offer a showcase for American attacking midfielder Gio Reyna, who impressed in his debut in the competition last season.

Second spot in the group is likely to be a battle between Lazio and Zenit. The former were league title contenders last season until their form fell off a cliff after the restart — and they have been a mixed bag this term. The latter remain dominant in their native Russia, but typically fail to make a significant impact on this stage. 

Club Brugge have finished third in their respective group in the last two seasons, but will be hard-pressed to achieve such heights this time around. 

Prediction: 1. Borussia Dortmund 2. Lazio 3. Zenit Saint Petersburg 4. Club Brugge

Player to Watch: Erling Haaland

The most prolific striker in the competition not named Robert Lewandowski will be a treat to watch for his incredible finishing, outstanding positioning, furious pace and dangerously intense goal celebrations. 

Group G

Teams: Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kiev, Ferencvaros

The headline of the entire group stage is the battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. This will be the first time they have faced each other in the group stage. 

As if that prospect wasn’t mouthwatering enough, the fixtures between Juventus and Barcelona also offer a head-to-head that will intrigue U.S. fans, as Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest lock horns. 

Barca may have a better pedigree in this contest, but this campaign is uncertain for the Catalans. Manager Ronald Koeman was not able to make the summer signings he wanted, Barcelona remains a mess off the field and the 8-2 shellacking at the hands of Bayern Munich a few months ago still lingers. 

Juventus are not yet a known quantity under inexperienced manager Andrea Pirlo, but this group could be the Old Lady’s for the taking. 

Like Group E, there is a divide between the European titans and the humble challengers. Dynamo Kiev have long departed the European spotlight, while Hungarian champions Ferencvaros are likely the weakest side in the contest by some distance. 

Prediction: 1. Juventus 2. Barcelona 3. Dynamo Kiev 4. Ferencvaros

Player to Watch: Lionel Messi

Naturally, Ronaldo will be a key player in this group, but Barca will be relying on their fading talisman more than ever in this campaign. 

Group H

Teams: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, Istanbul Basaksehir

This season’s Group of Death looks particularly threatening to Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer — who is already under fire at Old Trafford — must face a finalist and semifinalist from last season’s competition. Yikes. 

PSG were designed by their Qatari owners to compete in the Champions League, and they came agonizingly close to reaching their objective in August. They famously faltered against Solskjaer’s United two seasons ago, but seem like a certainty to progress. 

Leipzig is weakened by the departure of striker Timo Werner, but were able to reach the semifinals this past summer without his assistance. Julian Nagelsmann’s side may lack United’s heritage, but they have better pedigree to go further in this competition.

Istanbul Basaksehir, meanwhile, should not be entirely dismissed. Away trips to Istanbul are never easy and the Turkish champions will be looking for an upset in their group stage debut. 

Prediction: 1. Paris Saint-Germain 2. RB Leipzig 3. Manchester United 4. Istanbul Basaksehir

Player to Watch: Neymar

Kylian Mbappe is PSG’s most potent outlet for goals, but Neymar will be pulling the strings. The Brazilian has slowly phased out the theatrics and may have a handle on his temper — he will be laser-focused to bring PSG the silverware they desire.

More USMNT players at Champions League clubs can only improve World Cup prospects

https://a.espncdn.com/i/sportsnation/gn-arrow.png

How are the players Berhalter will be relying upon for World Cup qualifying performing with their clubs? ESPN’s correspondents from around the world bring you inside information to help explain the successes and stumbles of American players around the world.

Giovanni Reyna — On the rise : Reyna has featured in all five of Dortmund’s competitive fixtures so far this season, registering a pair of goals and three assists. The 17-year-old has bonded with fellow prodigies Erling HaalandJadon SanchoJude Bellingham and Reinier, helping the latter settle into life in Germany following his loan move from Real Madrid. Sources tell ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld that Dortmund see similarities between Reyna and Marco Reus, specifically noting the teenager’s defensive improvement and aggressiveness on the ball — just like his captain.

DeAndre Yedlin — Trending down : In Newcastle’s first seven matches of the 2020-21 season, Yedlin has made just three matchday squads — two starts in the Carabao Cup, and as an unused sub in the Premier League draw vs. Tottenham. The 27-year-old is now the third-choice right back on Tyneside, with sources telling ESPN that there are doubts about his defensive positioning. The former Seattle Sounders standout had been linked with a move away all summer, but wages proved to be an issue, sources say. If he isn’t named to Newcastle’s Premier League squad next week, he could be motivated to find a new home in January.

Tim Ream — Holding steady : It’s been a rough start to Fulham‘s return to the Premier League, with no points and 11 goals conceded in four matches. Ream has started three of those games, and another in the Carabao Cup, demonstrating his value to manager to Scott Parker. However, the Cottagers brought in two center backs on deadline day, putting the 33-year-old’s place under threat. Sources tell ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Tom Hamilton that there’s “no panic” from Ream’s camp, and that he’s prepared to compete for his place, citing the nearly 20 center backs who’ve moved to Craven Cottage during his time at the club and failed to displace the former Bolton man.

Timothy Weah — Trending down : Weah has featured in just 31 minutes of Lille‘s six Ligue 1 contests this year. Sources tell ESPN’s Julien Laurens that the French side is being cautious with the 20-year-old after a pair of hamstring injuries cost him nearly all of the 2019-20 season, his first after leaving Paris Saint-Germain. But that’s not the reason for his lack of action this term, with manager Christophe Galtier wanting Weah to play as a center forward, where Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David are the preferred pairing atop Lille’s 4-4-2. Weah is said to be frustrated by his lack of action as the third-choice striker, but remains in good spirits and awaits his chance with Yilmaz and David netting just two league goals between them.

A few minutes with …

For most of the summer, Weston McKennie had been linked with a move to the Premier League, so it came as some shock when he joined Italian giants Juventus on loan in August. Since, the 22-year-old has started all three matches in the Bianconeri‘s young campaign, including the first two games of their Serie A title defense.The FC Dallas academy product sat down with our Matteo Bonetti to talk about his decision to move to Turin, how he’s settling into life in Italy and what it’s been like to join a dressing room full of stars he has grown familiar with through years of playing FIFA.

Scouting report

Another tremendously gifted teenager from the impressive pack of American talents in European football, California-born Ulysses Llanez has Mexican parents and was close to representing Mexico at youth levels before settling for the U.S. youth national teams. After impressing at various youth levels, he made his USMNT debut in a friendly against Costa Rica in February, playing the full 90 minutes.

A skillful, unpredictable winger with a frightening turn of pace, the 19-year-old has evidently been inspired by the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar, as demonstrated by his trickery, quick feet and ability to deceive an opponent. But he’s not merely dribbling for the pure fun of it; he’s very positive in his play, tending to look for the direct route to goal when taking on opponents — although, like most teenagers, he can be found running into blind alleys. Llanez also possesses a fearful strike on the ball with his preferred right foot (although he’s practically two-footed) and he’s always looking to pick the early pass in behind when drifting into playmaking positions in the middle of the field.

The loan move to Heerenveen should offer the American a gentle yet educational environment in which to undertake his baby steps in European senior football (Real Madrid prodigy Martin Ødegaard spent a rewarding 18 months at the same club beginning in 2017). In the Eredivisie, where he made his debut as a second-half substitute earlier this month, he will be looking to develop the defensive side of his game and get on the ball more frequently. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

10/6/20 – International weekend – Euro’s, Indy 11 miss playoffs with 2-1 loss

TV GAMES

Wed, Oct 6

2:45 pm ESPN2                   Netherlands vs Mexico

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Portugal vs Spain – friendly

Thur, Oct 7                           

2:45 pm ESPN2                   Norway vs Serbia Euro Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN3                    Scotland vs Israel  Euro Qualifying

Sat,  Oct 10                          Europes Nations League

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Spain vs Switzerland

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Ukraine vs Germany

Sun,  Oct 11  

9 am  ESPN+                        Ireland vs Wales  

12 noon  ESPN+                  England vs Belgium

12 noon  ESPN+                   Croatia vs Sweden

2:45 pm ESPN                     France vs Portugal

2: 45 pm ESPN +                  Poland vs Italy

2: 45 pm ESPN +                  Iceland vs Denmark

Tues, Oct 13 

2:45 pm ESPN2                   Germany vs Switzerland

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Ukriane vs Spain

Weds, Oct 14 

2:45 pm ESPN2                   Italy vs Netherlands

2:45 pm ESPN+                    England vs Denmark

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Croatia vs France

10/2/20 – Indy 11 must win Sat @ St. Louis 7 pm, Pulisic back for Chelsea 7:30 am game, US-Dest to Barcelona, High School Sectionals, Former CFC GK Erin Baker Athlete of Wk on TV8

Indy 11 Must Win Sat night to Advance

Frustrating night for our Indy 11 once again as they gave up a goal in the last minutes to lose 2-1 to Sporting KC II at home Wed.  Indy 11 (7W-6L-2D, 23 pts.) dominated play but allowed the late goal as Sporting literally had a fair # of U18s on the field.  Amazing how our 11 have struggled down the stretch.  Its sets up a winner moves on match at St. Louis (6W-5L-4D, 22 pts.) this Saturday night at 7:30 pm on MyindyTV and ESPN+.  A win or tie actually allows the eleven in the playoffs backdoor as the 2nd seed in Group E where they can look to recover that early season magic.

Bayern Munich Wins 5th Trophy in 2020

Followed up their 2-1 win over Sevilla in the EUFA Supercup with a 3-2 win over Dortmund in the German cup this week and 19 year-old American defender Chris Richards got time again at right back where he as moved up 2nd string!  Saturday at 9:30 am on ESPN+ 2 American’s play as and Gio Reyna of Dortmund will face Frieburg and Stuart and Werder Bremen host Arminia. Tyler Adams of RB Leipzig host Schalke at 12:30 on ESPN+ Sat.   

Games to Watch

Chelsea with a returning Christian Pulisic kick things off on Peacock at 7:30 am Sat followed Everton and Brighton on NBCSN.  Atletico + Villarreal are at 10 am on beIN Sport, while Leeds United hosts Man City and (GK Stephen) at 12:30 on NBC.  MLS gets a prime 4 pm FOX slot for the rejuvenated Orlando City v NY Red Bulls 2 teams battling for supremacy in the East with Columbus.  Sunday gives us Man United vs Spurs at 11:30 am on NBCSN after Fulham and Tim Ream travel to Wolverhampton at 9 on NBCSN.  Italy’s Serie A serves up another star-studded clash this weekend, and another big test for Juventus’ American midfielder Weston McKennie as they host Napoli at 2:45 pm on Sunday on ESPN+.  Napoli has a loaded attack led by forwards Dries Mertens, Fernando Llorente, and 21-year-old Nigerian Victor Osimhen.   While at 3 pm the newly minted US Defender Sergio Dest might make his debute vs Sevilla on beIN Sport.  US Players games wrap up here.

Good Luck at Sectionals Next Week

Good luck to both the Men’s and Women’s Carmel High Soccer teams heading into sectionals next week.  The #10 Ranked CHS boys who are hosting the Sectionals at home – start Wed vs Westfield and must get by 7th ranked Zionsville or #2 ranked North Central, along with 16 Pike in the sectional. The #2 ranked ladies return to action Tuesday vs Westfield and most get by #10 Zionsville, #3 Guerin and #14 North Central along the way.  Games are at Guerin Catholic Mon – Sat off Grey Road.  In case you missed it look who made athlete of the week on Wish TV 8 this week – former Carmel FC and current Carmel High GK Erin Baker – see video here.   

American players learn Champions League draw

One group awaits us all  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Oct 1, 2020, 2:28pm

UEFA conducted the draw for the group stage of the 2020-21 Champions League. Matches begin October 20th with a double round robin, and the road to the Champions League final begins for 32 teams.

Eight United States Men’s National Team players will have their chance to play in the Champions League with their teams: Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), and Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge). Also, an American coach, Red Bull Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch, will hope to lead his team to Champions League glory.

The groups for the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League: 8 Teams in Red have American players or coaches.

Group A – Bayern MunichAtlético Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg, Lokomotiv Moscow

Group B – Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter MilanBorussia Mönchengladbach

Group C – FC PortoManchester City, Olympiacos, Olympique de Marseille

Group D – Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, FC Midjtylland

Group E – Sevilla, Chelsea, FC Krasnodar, Rennes

Group F – Zenit St. Petersburg, Borussia DortmundLazio, Club Brugge

Group G – Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv, Ferencváros

Group H – Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, İstanbul Başakşehir

The biggest group for American fans is Group G, which will have a big-time pair of matchups between Juventus and Barcelona, where Weston McKennie will face off against USMNT teammate Sergiño Dest. It’s also the first match between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juve in 2018. They are two matches that are perfect to be shown on CBS. Let’s see if the network boosts those matchups to network television for the country to see.Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig may have the toughest group in the field, as they share Group H with PSG, Manchester United, and İstanbul Başakşehir, who won the Turkish SuperLïg this past season. It will be a remarkable test for Adams and Leipzig to get out of that group and advance to the knockout stage.The team that looks to have the easiest road to the Round of 16 is Borussia Dortmund, who face Zenit, Lazio, and Club Brugge. Gio Reyna should be a major factor for the Black & Yellow during the group stage. For American fans of Manchester City, they hope that they can outlast Porto, Olympiacos, and Marseille so that backup goalkeeper Zack Steffen will get to see some matches. Finally, Group A could be a tough test for Jesse Marsch and Red Bull Salzburg. To squeak past Atleti or Bayern to get to the knockout stage will be difficult to do, but Salzburg will not quit. Chris Richards, who’s just starting to work his way onto the field for Bayern’s first team, could see some action in Champions League. We can all hope Bayern gives Richards that much-needed experience in a few matches in the group stage.Which matchups interest you? Which Americans do you think can make it out of the group to the knockout stage?

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Oct 3  

7:30 am Peacock                                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Crystal Palace 

9:30 am ESPN+                                   Werder Bremen (Stuart) vs Arminia

9:30 am ESPN+                                Borrusia Dortmund (Gio Reyna) vs Freiburg

10 am beIN Sport                               Atletico Madrid vs Villareal

10 am NBCSN                                     Everton vs Brighton 

12:30 pm ESPN+                                 RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Schalke

12:30 pm NBC                                Leeds United vs Man City

3  pm bein Sport                                 Valencia vs Real Betis 

3 pm Peacock                                      New Castle vs Burnley

4  pm FOX                           Orlando City vs NY Red Bulls 

7:30 pm My Indy TV 23, ESPN+   Indy 11 @ St. Louis

8 pm ESPN+                                        Cincy vs Minn United       

8 pm ESPN+                                        Dallas (Hedges) vs Columbus Crew (Zardes)

Sun, Oct 4

9am Peacock                                       Arsenal vs Sheffiled United

9 am NBCSN                                       Wolverhampton vs Fulham (Ream)

9 am ESPN+                                        Lazio vs Inter Milan

10 am beiN  port                                Levante vs Real Madrid 

11:30 am NBCSN                           Man United vs Spurs

12  ESPN+                                           Bayern Munich vs Hertha Berlin

2 pm Peacock                                      West Ham vs Wolverhampton          

2:45 pm ESPN+                                   Juventus (McKinney) vs Napoli

3 pm beIN Sport                           Barcelona (Dest, Konrad) vs Sevilla

2:15  pm NBCSN                                 Aston Villa vs Liverpool

9:30 pm ESPN+                                   Real Salt Lake vs LAFC 

USA

Games on TV with US Players
Christian Pulisic is healthy again, expected to make season debut for Chelsea on Saturday
Is the USMNT in danger of developing into a world-class outfit?
Englands Guardian
US Coach Marsch’s Salzburg among six to complete Champions League field

Dest becomes first US player signed by Barcelona’s top squad
Champions League groups drawn for Premier League sides, USMNT stars
For Reyna and Co., Germany is the place to be om Hamilton, Stephan Uersfeld
Move Details of McKinney move to Juve – SI
San Diego soccer team walks off pitch after opponent allegedly calls gay player an anti-gay slur

San Diego Loyal forfeits match after opposing player allegedly directed homophobic slur at Collin Martin

Inside story on a soccer team’s bold protest

San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin, who was at the center of his team’s statement against homophobia, explains how it all went down.‘I wasn’t going to let it go’ »

 EPL
Premier League Pick ‘Em: Matchweek 4

Relentless Liverpool raise bar for title rivals

Tottenham Hotspur-Manchester United Preview

Man City, Man Utd ease into League Cup quarter-finals

Chelsea – Crystal Palace: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Crystal Palace-Chelsea Preview

Why you should watch Tottenham vs. Manchester United this Sunday

Arsenal reach League Cup quarter-finals after Liverpool shoot-out

 WORLD


Bayern beats Dortmund 3-2 to lift German Super Cup

Bayern win German Super Cup to lift fifth title in 2020

Lewandowski named UEFA men’s player of year

Messi and Barcelona: The inside story on how everything fell apart, and what’s next
Pogba returns to France squad for Nations League matches

Christian Pulisic is healthy again, expected to make season debut for Chelsea on Saturday

Doug McIntyre,Yahoo Sports•October 2, 2020


Doug McIntyre,Yahoo Sports•October 2, 2020

Christian Pulisic is finally healthy again after spending two months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.Chelsea manager Frank Lampard announced Friday that Pulisic would be included in the Blues squad for the first time this season on Saturday, when the London club hosts Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.Pulisic was injured Aug. 1 after scoring Chelsea’s only goal in a 2-1 FA Cup final loss to Premier League rival Arsenal. The 22-year-old American attacker appeared in 32 games across all competitive league for Lampard last term, his first in England following four years with German titan Borussia Dortmund.He scored 11 goals and added 10 assists in 2019-20, and was Chelsea’s best player after the Prem resumed in June following a three-month shutdown in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.- ADVERTISEMENT -During his pre-match press conference Friday, Lampard said that while Pulisic would dress for the game against Palace, he would not start “as his recovery from injury continues to be managed.” With Pulisic in need of match-fitness, though, a cameo off the substitutes bench is a near-certainty.But with the ninth-place Blues off to a 1-1-1 start in the Premier League, his team needs Pulisic back in the lineup as soon as possible. After Saturday’s tilt, the Blues next two league games are at home to Southampton and then away to Manchester United, where they lost 4-0 last season in Pulisic’s Prem debut.n Thursday, Chelsea was drawn into a UEFA Champions League group with Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes. The club kicks off Europe’s top club competition later this month.Friday’s news is also a positive development for the United States men’s national team. Pulisic has not played for the USMNT in a year, but would be expected to participate in planned friendly matches in Europe next month if healthy. The U.S. is hoping to finalize a pair of exhibitions in the U.K., with Wales and New Zealand the rumored opponents.The U.S. was scheduled to visit Wales in March, but that match was cancelled amid the health crisis.



USMNT and the Bundesliga: Why so many top young Americans choose Germany on career path

Sep 29, 2020Tom HamiltonStephan Uersfeld ESPNFC




Former USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann looks ahead to the USMNT stars involved in this season’s Bundesliga.Already at Schalke were fellow Americans Nick Taitague (promoted to the first team over the summer) and McKennie. “I think he [Weston] was an influence,” Hoppe told ESPN. “He was a big star here at Schalke, and he was willing to show that Schalke were willing to play young players and young Americans. I spoke to him a few times and he gave me some encouragement and advice. It was a good conversation.” The Future As one Bundesliga academy head told ESPN, “there is huge potential for extraordinary footballers [in Germany]. There is a huge growing rate, a huge pool of players who are all well-trained.” The U.S. 2019 Under-20 World Cup team had six players contracted to German clubs, while the last Under-17 team had Pablo Soares from Borussia Monchengladbach and Noah Jones from RB Leipzig.With the top Bundesliga clubs aware of promising American talent as young as 12 years old, the pathway is established. And with the Bundesliga’s brand as a place that trusts in youth (Borussia Dortmund’s opener against Gladbach was created by Reyna and Bellingham, who are both 17), it’s seen as a place where age is irrelevant if you’re good enough.”There’s not much politics involved,” Klinsmann told ESPN. “The coaches are usually very straightforward. If the kid understands that it’s all down to performance and they’ll get the chance, the Bundesliga’s the place to be.”Said Hoppe: “All the young players have an extreme talent and the Bundesliga’s able to offer these players an opportunity to use their talent, to tweak it, improve all the things they need to work on. It’s so wholesome [in Germany] — they need to work on their strength, their technique, their tactical ability, their mental strength — the league helps make them more a complete player.”The migration shows no signs of slowing. This summer gone, Arminia Bielefeld signed 16-year-old goalkeeper Carver Miller from DC United, while Joel Imasuen arrived at Hertha Berlin. Then Bayern and Barcelona were involved in a scramble for Dest. While some move on — like Sebastian Soto, who joined Norwich City before going out on loan to SC Telstar in the Netherlands, or Blaine Ferri, who swapped Greuther Furth for Fort Lauderdale CF in the USL — the machine keeps going.”I think there are a lot of talented players in the USA,” Hoppe says. “They just need to take the jump to Europe, they need to keep developing their game and take the risk.”

Messi and Barcelona: The inside story on how everything fell apart, and what’s next Sep 24, 202 0Multiple Contributors ESPNFC
A year ago, Lionel Messi set out his terms for staying at Barcelona. “I want to be at Barcelona for as long as possible. This is my home,” he told the Catalan newspaper Sport. “But I don’t want to have a long-term contract and to only be here because of it. I need to see that there’s a winning team because I want to keep winning things at this club. “For me, money or a clause don’t mean anything. I don’t have any intention of going anywhere but I want to keep competing and winning.”Twelve months later, Messi was refusing to train, insisting that his 20-year relationship with Barca was over, and trying to force a move to Manchester City.  That Messi, one-club man, captain and icon, would seek to leave Barcelona like this — notifying them in a now-infamous burofax that, as far as he was concerned, he had already gone — should have been unthinkable. And yet this was no spur-of-the-moment decision. We should have seen it coming.Messi had not been happy at Barcelona — with the president, the board or management — for a long time. He admitted as much in the interview that brought a temporary end to the crisis this summer: “I’ve been telling [president Josep Maria Bartomeu] that I wanted to leave all year.” Known for being a reluctant public figure, Messi speaks only when he has something to say — and at 33, he has been more vocal than ever. He was desperate to be heard. Those in charge at Barcelona didn’t listen.This is the story — told with the help of numerous first-hand accounts from sources close to both player and club — of how Messi’s nagging doubts about Barcelona eventually became impossible to ignore, and what happened next.Editors’ note: This story contains reporting from Moises Llorens, Sam Marsden, Alex Kirkland, Rodrigo Faez and Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal.

ABOVE ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS both personal and professional, Messi’s discontent stems from his desire to win. And for Messi, winning means the Champions League. Barcelona haven’t done that since 2015. They haven’t even come close. Embarrassed by Liverpool and Roma in recent years, the 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich at the quarterfinal stage of the competition last season, in August, was the tipping point. Messi is intensely aware of the impact Barca’s European failings will have on his legacy. Four Champions League titles are more than enough for mortals. But not for Messi. Several sources pinpoint one moment that best reveals Messi’s disenchantment. It came at Camp Nou in May 2019. Barca were 3-0 up in the first leg of their semifinal against Liverpool. In the 96th minute, Messi — who had scored twice — drew three defenders before squaring the ball for an unmarked Ousmane Dembele. Dembele miskicked, Alisson made the easy save and Messi fell theatrically to the floor, face down in the turf. He knew that Barcelona needed another goal — the season before, Roma erased a first-leg, 4-1 deficit to advance on away goals to the semifinals — because his teammates couldn’t be trusted to defend a 3-0 lead away from home. Six days later, he was proved right.”The last chance for Dembele was clear-cut,” Messi told reporters after the first leg. “Four goals would have been better than three.”How do you prevent those mistakes from happening again and again? One approach might involve a clear-eyed vision of the kind of team you want to construct. But Barcelona’s planning has been incoherent at best. Losing Neymar, with whom Messi loved to play, to Paris Saint-Germain was perhaps forgivable. Wasting almost €300 million on Dembele and Philippe Coutinho — both yet to come good, three years on — less so. The club failed to bring Neymar back last summer, signing Antoine Griezmann instead for a similar sum. Griezmann is a player who has failed to adapt for various reasons, including the fact his preferred position is taken by MessiA series of sporting directors — Andoni Zubizarreta, Robert Fernandez, Pep Segura, Eric Abidal and Ramon Planes — have come and gone over the past five years, all of them unable to implement an effective long-term strategy because they were never afforded the time to do so. They have all been made scapegoats by Bartomeu, sacrificed as symbols of the club’s shortcomings. Among them, they brought in a mishmash of players recruited with different ideas in mind. New signings arrived, flopped and left. Legendary midfielder Andres Iniesta departed. Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets got older.Messi waited, despairingly, for things to get better. E

VEN AS BARCELONA FAILED IN EUROPE, they at least continued to win La Liga. Manager Ernesto Valverde, despite his unpopularity among some Barca fans, won the league ahead of Real Madrid in 2018 and 2019. Messi liked Valverde. Sources told ESPN that the easygoing, diplomatic Valverde maintained relative harmony in a dressing room divided between two cliques: one, led by Messi, Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal, who were essentially happy under the coach’s laid-back regime; and another, including Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Frenkie de Jong, who would have preferred a more disciplined approach. That balance endured until January this year when Valverde was sacked — with Barca top of the league — after defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa in Saudi Arabia. He was replaced by Quique Setien, a man with no experience managing a group of players at this level. The fallout from Valverde’s firing was damaging, too. Sporting director Abidal said in an interview with Sport in February that “a lot of players weren’t happy [with Valverde] and weren’t working a lot.”Messi, in a rare moment of rage, snapped. “I honestly don’t like to do these things, but I think everyone should take responsibility for their decisions,” he wrote on Instagram. “The sporting department should take responsibility. When you talk about players, you should give names. If not, you’re tarnishing all of us and feeding things which people say and aren’t true.”Abidal touched a nerve. Messi is incredibly sensitive to the idea that he runs things at Barcelona, responsible for hiring and firing coaches and identifying transfer targets. It’s understandable, even if it’s hard to dispute the grain of truth at its heart: that Barca should do everything possible to keep their best-ever player happy.Barca had been failing to do that on the pitch; they were failing off it, too. In February, it was alleged that a company the club had hired to protect its image was behind social media accounts posting disparaging comments about current and former players. Messi and his family were mentioned. It was another blow to his already fragile relationship with Bartomeu, even if Barca continue to deny any wrongdoing in the scandal that’s come to be known as “Barcagate.”

SETIEN HAD A BRIEF AND TROUBLED SPELL IN CHARGE. From the beginning, Messi was not impressed with him despite hyped-up claims of a return to the more attacking, possession-based style of play made famous at the club by Johan Cruyff and, later, Pep Guardiola.An uneasy, six-month truce lasted until June, when La Liga returned after its pandemic-enforced break. When Barca dropped their first points in a frustrating goalless draw with Sevilla, sources told ESPN that there was a tense dressing room showdown between captain and coach as stunned teammates looked on.The top-of-the-table lead that Setien had inherited from Valverde quickly disappeared. Real Madrid won 10 games in a row, while Barca dropped points in four of theirs. Their title challenge ended with a 2-1 home defeat to Osasuna on July 16. Speaking immediately afterward, Messi didn’t hold back.Things had “all gone wrong” since January, he said, in a blatant criticism of his new coach. “We’ve been a very erratic, weak, low-intensity team. Today’s game is a summary of the season. We have to be self-critical, starting with the players but across the whole club.”

BARCELONA HAD WON NOTHING IN 2019-20, their first trophyless campaign in 12 years. Setien was dismissed. His replacement was club legend Ronald Koeman, but it was too late. Messi’s mind was made up. A first meeting between Messi and Koeman — one that saw Messi interrupt his holiday with Suarez and Jordi Alba in the Pyrenees to return to Barcelona on Aug. 20 — did not go well. Messi expressed his doubts and remained determined to leave the club.Around the same time, he called Guardiola.”Messi and Pep spoke for hours,” a source told ESPN. The pair are close and have much in common. Messi, Guardiola and Manchester City all share an obsession with the Champions League. City have never won it; Guardiola and Messi are thought not to have won it often enough.Messi knew that his options for leaving Barcelona were limited. Unlike Barca, he viewed City as having a clear strategy and an upward trajectory. The player told his former coach that he wanted to move. Guardiola said he would talk to decision-makers at City. It wouldn’t be straightforward, he warned.Messi’s flirtation with City was nothing new. In fact, City’s rebuild under their new owners over the past decade has been carried out with the aim of attracting first Guardiola and, later, Messi. There were discussions in 2014, and again in 2016. Yet City’s hopes of signing Messi this summer were dependent on them playing in the Champions League. Once their two-year ban from European competitions was lifted on July 13, they knew they would be the front-runners to sign him if he left Barca.There was never any direct contact between the clubs, nor did Messi’s camp transmit directly to Barca a desire to move to City, but sources at the Catalan club say were informed of City’s interest in signing Messi by a third party. It gave City a lot to think about. Could they afford Messi’s salary? How much would they have to pay Barca? What about financial fair play? His €700m buyout clause was impossible, even for City. There was a more tantalising prospect, though: Messi might be available for nothing.The mechanism by which they thought they could pull off a deal had existed for years. Messi’s long-term doubts led his advisers to insert a release clause in his Barca contract when it was renewed in 2017. At the end of the 2019-20 season, within a defined period, he could unilaterally rescind his contract and walk away.And so, Barcelona’s board nervously waited. In the end, the date — initially widely reported as May 31, later corrected to June 10 — fell when La Liga was about to resume. Nonetheless, when it had passed, the club were quick to brief the media. As far as they were concerned, Messi would be staying until 2021. Messi has since said he didn’t inform the club before then because they were still involved in La Liga and the Champions League; one source, though, says the fact City were banned from European football before winning an appeal also complicated his route out of Camp Nou.The original date in Messi’s contract had been drawn up to coincide with the end of the season. But with the campaign extended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Messi’s camp felt they had some wiggle room when it came to the interpretation of the clause.Sources told ESPN that the feedback Messi received from legal experts was mixed. Only one law firm out of at least four consulted, Cuatrecasas, believed the argument had a realistic chance of success. That was enough and Messi decided to go ahead. If he stood his ground, perhaps Barca would blink first.
AUG. 24 BEGAN WITH A PHONE CALL from Koeman to Suarez. In a conversation that lasted around a minute, the coach told Messi’s best friend in the squad that he was not in Barca’s plans and should look for a new club. Vidal received similar treatment. Messi’s allies were being pushed out and, in his view, disrespected. Later that day, Messi took action. On advice from Cuatrecasas, the player opted to use a burofax — a registered letter, used when legal proof of receipt is required — to inform Barcelona that he wished to leave for free, exercising his release clause. Signed by Messi, it was sent just after 7 p.m. By mid-morning on Aug. 25, the letter had arrived at Camp Nou. – Lowe: Messi, bad blood and a ‘burofax’ The first to read it, aghast, were Bartomeu and the head of Barca’s legal department, Roma Gomez Ponti. “They could not believe their eyes,” a source told ESPN. For them, there was no debate: The clause had already expired. “Put aside everything else you’ve been working on and focus on this,” Bartomeu told the club’s lawyers. Barcelona contacted two firms specialising in sports law — Costa Torrecillas & Associates and Bufete Antras — for advice. (The former had won the club a favourable judgment months earlier in their dispute with Neymar over a renewal bonus.) Both firms agreed Barca were in the right and should not give in to Messi’s demands. Despite that, sources told ESPN at the time there were board members who supported letting Messi go. Not for free, mind you, but if it meant bringing in a large fee and removing his €90m salary from the wage bill, the club might be able to dig itself out of a €300m financial hole during the COVID-19 crisis.”Messi has so much power at the club, both on a financial and sporting level,” one source said. Another, close to the dressing room, went further. “It’s the moment to sell him, it’s a historic opportunity to be able to change things. There are players who will perform a lot better without him in the team.”Those voices believed a managed departure could be beneficial, but the president would not entertain the prospect. It was €700m from a buying club, or he stays. “Bartomeu doesn’t want to be the president who agrees to the sale of Messi,” a source told ESPN, even as another source said, “it’s the best thing he could have done.”Bartomeu might have ruined his relationship with Messi — the player called him a liar, claiming Bartomeu had assured him he would let him go — but he got his wish. In the end, he won’t be the president who oversees Messi’s departure; after all, the club’s presidential elections will happen on March 20 or 21 next year, before Messi’s contract expires.
AT MANCHESTER CITY, there had been a growing acceptance that signing Messi for free was impossible, so they turned their attention to a negotiated settlement. After several days of crunching numbers, a source told ESPN that “if Barcelona let him leave for €100 or 150m, Messi will be a City player.” City were also willing to include players of interest to Barca, such as young defender and La Masia product Eric Garcia, in a deal, although ESPN was told that others, including Gabriel JesusBernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, would not be included.All of that depended on Barca being willing to budge. Messi waited and maintained his silence, even skipping coronavirus testing ahead of a return for preseason training with new coach Koeman. Board members who’d been critical of Messi felt he should be fined for that; Bartomeu believed doing so would escalate the crisis. As Barca drafted burofaxes of their own to correspond with their absent captain, sources told ESPN that some versions specified that there would be no punishment, while others left the option open. On the morning of Sept. 2, Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, flew from Rosario, Argentina, to Barcelona for a meeting with Bartomeu that evening, but no progress was made. Bartomeu had one important thing as leverage: Messi could not stomach a legal battle. He was determined to leave, but not if the process descended into lengthy litigation. City were reluctant to take that road, too.Everything changed on Sept. 4. In an interview with Goal’s Ruben Uria, Messi announced his decision to stay. “The president told me the only way to leave was to pay the €700m clause, which is impossible, and that the alternative was going to court,” Messi said. “I would never take Barca to court because it’s the club I love.” It could have ended differently. Some at Barcelona feel that Messi’s approach — both in law and in public relations — was flawed from the start. “He didn’t choose the best communications strategy,” one source told ESPN. “If he had timed it better, he could have finished off Bartomeu and he’d be at Manchester City by now.” In this reading, Messi’s fundamental mistake was a failure to articulate his decision to leave sooner, and to speak directly to the fans — perhaps, as many other players might have done, on their social media accounts — before the burofax was sent.Others question whether the prospect of another year of an unhappy Messi is best for Barca. The No. 10 has channelled his anger on the pitch before with positive results for the team; he might do so again. But ESPN has been told that some players thought a fresh start, with a new coach and without Messi, might have been the best for everyone. SO MESSI STAYS FOR NOW, but so do his doubts, expressed so clearly and concisely when he finally spoke out. “The truth is that for a while there hasn’t been a project or anything,” he said. “They’ve been juggling things and plugging holes.”But the story doesn’t end there. Bartomeu will be gone soon and a new president is to be elected in March. He might not even make it until then if a vote of no confidence, launched on the back of Messi’s burofax, goes against him in the coming weeks. There could be as many as 10 people in the running to replace Bartomeu, too — Victor Font is one of the early favourites to inherit the role and he has said that, in addition to bringing former Barca midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez back as coach, he wants to make sure Messi stays. Not one of the candidates has said they want to build a Barca without Messi, despite the fact he will be 34 next summer.Messi has leverage. With his deal officially expiring in June, he is able to negotiate with other clubs starting in January. No legal battle, no drama, at least of the sort we’ve witnessed this past summer.Will the new president be able to convince him to renew his deal? Messi has said the club must sign young players to freshen up an aging squad. That is slowly happening, but it’s coming at the expense of his closest friends at the club: Vidal has joined Inter Milan and Suarez is headed to Atletico Madrid.So much depends on the next eight months, on how Koeman does and on who wins the elections. Beyond all that, though, it depends on one thing: on Barcelona having a winning team.



PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN LOOKS TO CLINCH PLAYOFF BERTH IN REGULAR SEASON FINALE AT SAINT LOUIS FC By Indy Eleven Communications, 10/01/20, 7:30PM EDT Click Here to View the Official Indy Eleven #STLvIND Game Notes – October 3, 2020 #STLvIND Gameday Preview  Indy Eleven at Saint Louis FC    Saturday, October 3, 2020 – 7:30 P.M. ET   West Community Stadium | Fenton, Mo.  FOLLOW LIVE Local/National TV: MyINDY-TV 23  Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)  Radio (Spanish): Exitos 94.3 FM/exitos943.com In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers    Live stats: USLChampionship.com #STLvIND Match Center   2020 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS  Indy Eleven: 7W-6L-2D, 23 pts. (+3 GD), 2nd in Group E  Saint Louis FC: 6W-5L-4D, 22 pts. (0 GD), 3rd in Group E  A postseason berth is on the line as Indy Eleven travels west to Saint Louis FC in its 2020 USL Championship Regular Season finale this Saturday. With Indy currently in second place in Group E (23 pts.) and STL sitting right behind in the standings (22 pts.), a draw or victory will be needed for Indiana’s Team to clinch the group’s second seed and the team’s third playoff berth in as many season. The Missouri side is currently riding a two-game winless streak, a statistic that will have to change if it wants to continue playing after October 3. Sitting in third place, just one point behind Indy Eleven, Saint Louis needs all three points out of Saturday’s affair to advance to the playoffs. Any other result will see Saint Louis permanently end its USL Championship run after six season as the organization announced on August 25 it would cease operations at the conclusion of the 2020 season.  SERIES HISTORY The series history between the I-70 sharers has seen both sides evenly split regular season points since its 2019 berth at 2W-2L-1D, with both clubs registering wins when they have homefield advantage. Indy Eleven started its 2020 ledger against Saint Louis FC – and its post-quarantine restart of the 2020 regular season – on July 11 at Lucas Oil Stadium by posting a 2-0 win on the strength of second half goals by Tyler Pasher and Neveal Hackshaw. STLFC got its revenge at West Community Stadium on July 26, with Tyler Blackwood’s tally midway through the first half being good enough for a 1-0 win, despite Indy Eleven outshooting the home side 20-2 on the day. In the last outing at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 23, STLFC’s Russell Cicerone secured the lead in a chippy affair that saw the visitors end the night with nine players on the pitch, but a second-half equalizer off Hackshaw’s head brought both teams level into the final whistle. Both teams close out the season against each other in this Saturday’s regular season finale in the Gateway to the West that will see one team lock in its place in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs.   INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: DF KARL OUIMETTE Now in his third season with Indy Eleven, Ouimette has firmly established himself into Head Coach Martin Rennie’s backline. The Repentigny, Quebec native has started all 14 games he’s appeared in this season, tied with ‘keeper Evan Newton and Hackshaw for second most minutes played this season at 1,260, trailing behind only last year’s “Ironman,” Tyler Gibson (1,295). So far this year, the Canadian has been a thorn on every opposing attack’s side, placing top three in all major defensive categories for Indy Eleven – clearances (2nd, 35), blocks (2nd, 9) and interceptions (3rd, 17). Moreover, Ouimette leads the team in duels won (93), aerial duels (87), aerial duels won (58) and tied with midfielder Drew Conner for more tackles won (17). In his last game against Saint Louis, Ouimette won 10 of the 12 duels he was involved in, in addition to winning five of his six aerial duels. The 28-year-old has a knack for blocking opposing traffic, capitalizing on opportunities to regain possession that often kickstart counterattacking runs into the opponent’s half. Look for the eight-year veteran to handle business in the defending third Saturday evening as he and the rest of Indiana’s Team fight for a postseason run.
 

SAINT LOUIS FC PLAYER TO WATCH: MF RUSSELL CICERONE Cicerone has debatably been the most dependable player for Saint Louis FC Head Coach Steve Trittschuh’s attack this season, playing in all 15 contests played this season –  starting in 14 of them – and clocking in the second most minutes played among his teammates at 1,256. Cicerone has been the bane of Saint Louis’ opponents all season. Mostly lurking around the upper right corner of opponent’s 18-yard boxes, Cicerone spends his game antagonizing defenders with an offensive onslaught. The second-year midfielder currently leads his team in shots (34) and shots on target (18), and is tied with forward Tyler Blackwood atop the scoring table with five goals. Although he hasn’t been able to assist on any goals, Cicerone leads his side in chances created (24), adding another layer of frustration for opposing defenders to carefully monitor. Last time he played against Indy Eleven, Cicerone’s 50th minute goal was enough for STLFC to come out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a point in a 1-1 draw on September 23. With Saint Louis now in a “winner takes all” scenario heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Indy defenders will need to keep level heads to minimize Ciceroni’s attacking opportunities.      RECAP | INDY ELEVEN FALLS TO SPORTING KANSAS CITY II IN REGULAR SEASON HOME FINALE By Indy Eleven Communications, 09/30/20, 11:00PM EDT Share   size=1 width=”100%” align=center> Last-Minute SKC Goal Breaks 1-1 Draw, Setting Up Showdown Between Indy Eleven and Saint Louis FC for Playoff Berth https://www.youtube.com/embed/in3r-sw8cu8 #INDvSKC Post-Game Quotes – September 30 #INDvSKC Stats via USLChampionship.com Match Center Despite battling back from a one goal deficit in the first half, Indy Eleven ultimately fell 1-2 against Sporting Kansas City II in the club’s 2020 regular season home finale. Andrew Carleton’s first goal of the season closed the gap in favor of Indiana’s Team at the start of the second half, but a 95th minute goal from Sporting KC II’s Bailey Sparks in dying minutes of the game secured the three points for the visitors. Even with the result, Indy Eleven’s postseason aspirations are still alive as the club remains in second place of Group E (23 pts.) with Saint Louis FC nipping at its heels (22 pts.). Both teams will meet one more time this Saturday to wrap up the final weekend of USL Championship regular season play in a must-watch affair that will decide which team will clinch a second-seed playoff berth in Group E – Indy needing a win or a draw in order to advance into the 2020 postseason. “We are playing games where a little bounce of the ball here or there could make a big difference for us to actually go out and win these games very comfortably,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “At the moment, the ball hasn’t bounced our way for quite a few weeks, and we find ourselves in a position where we need a result in the last game of the season. That’s okay – we need to make sure that we get our heads up and get focused on how we do that. We are very capable of doing that and we have to make sure we get it done.” Indy Eleven came out the gates firing, creating four opportunities – three of which from the feet of Tyler Pasher –  in the opening 12 minutes of the night. The best of those four chances came in the eighth minute, Carl Haworth serving a low cross past two SKC defenders to Pasher near the top of the 18-yard box, who only had goalkeeper Remi Prieur in between him and his 10th goal of the season. His one-touch left-footed attempt proved unsuccessful however, as Prieur managed to push the strike wide off his fingertips. Having already been eliminated from playoff contention, Sporting Kansas City II entered Lucas Oil Stadium looking to prolong Indy’s chances to clinch the postseason early Wednesday evening. After taking a hard foul from Cam Lindley late in the first half, which earned the Carmel, Ind. native his first yellow card of the season, SKC’s Fredlin Mompremier found himself in the middle of Indy’s box in a one-on-one situation in 41st minute. A long through pass from the midfield found Mompremier along the left flank, who quickly danced right towards goal inside of the box. Mompremier’s chipped cross found the head Wilson Harris, who nodded the ball in the upper corner to give the visitors a one-goal advantage before the halftime whistle. Coming into the second half, Pasher went from looking to score to creating opportunities for his teammates. The Canadian found his way into the visitor’s box and found Carleton, who was a halftime substitution, at the top of the box. Taking one touch to settle, the 20-year-old sent a left-footed strike skidding just out of Prieur’s reach and into the bottom-right corner for his first goal of the season. Indy Eleven kept the Sporting’s offense at bay for most of the second stanza, only allowing three shots from the visiting side going into stoppage time and the contest looked as if it were going to end with the points being shared. Sparks, a late-game substitute, found himself at the top of Indy’s box, managing to find a bit of space for a right-footed attempt that went past ‘keeper Evan Newton at full extension and into the back of the net in the 95th minute for the final lead, breaking the visitor’s four-game losing streak. Indy Eleven (7W-6L-2D, 23 pts.) will have one more chance to clinch its third playoff berth in as many season this Saturday, October 3, travels to Saint Louis FC (6W-5L-4D, 22 pts.) in both team’s final game of the 2020 USL Regular Season. The 7:30 p.m. ET matchup can be followed live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.   USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvSKC Indy Eleven 1 : 2  Sporting Kansas City II Wednesday, September 30, 2020 – 7:00 p.m. ET Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind. Attendance: 6,039

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Former USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann looks ahead to the USMNT stars involved in this season’s Bundesliga.Already at Schalke were fellow Americans Nick Taitague (promoted to the first team over the summer) and McKennie. “I think he [Weston] was an influence,” Hoppe told ESPN. “He was a big star here at Schalke, and he was willing to show that Schalke were willing to play young players and young Americans. I spoke to him a few times and he gave me some encouragement and advice. It was a good conversation.” The Future As one Bundesliga academy head told ESPN, “there is huge potential for extraordinary footballers [in Germany]. There is a huge growing rate, a huge pool of players who are all well-trained.” The U.S. 2019 Under-20 World Cup team had six players contracted to German clubs, while the last Under-17 team had Pablo Soares from Borussia Monchengladbach and Noah Jones from RB Leipzig.With the top Bundesliga clubs aware of promising American talent as young as 12 years old, the pathway is established. And with the Bundesliga’s brand as a place that trusts in youth (Borussia Dortmund’s opener against Gladbach was created by Reyna and Bellingham, who are both 17), it’s seen as a place where age is irrelevant if you’re good enough.”There’s not much politics involved,” Klinsmann told ESPN. “The coaches are usually very straightforward. If the kid understands that it’s all down to performance and they’ll get the chance, the Bundesliga’s the place to be.”Said Hoppe: “All the young players have an extreme talent and the Bundesliga’s able to offer these players an opportunity to use their talent, to tweak it, improve all the things they need to work on. It’s so wholesome [in Germany] — they need to work on their strength, their technique, their tactical ability, their mental strength — the league helps make them more a complete player.”The migration shows no signs of slowing. This summer gone, Arminia Bielefeld signed 16-year-old goalkeeper Carver Miller from DC United, while Joel Imasuen arrived at Hertha Berlin. Then Bayern and Barcelona were involved in a scramble for Dest. While some move on — like Sebastian Soto, who joined Norwich City before going out on loan to SC Telstar in the Netherlands, or Blaine Ferri, who swapped Greuther Furth for Fort Lauderdale CF in the USL — the machine keeps going.”I think there are a lot of talented players in the USA,” Hoppe says. “They just need to take the jump to Europe, they need to keep developing their game and take the risk.” Messi and Barcelona: The inside story on how everything fell apart, and what’s next Sep 24, 2020Multiple Contributors ESPNFC A year ago, Lionel Messi set out his terms for staying at Barcelona. “I want to be at Barcelona for as long as possible. This is my home,” he told the Catalan newspaper Sport. “But I don’t want to have a long-term contract and to only be here because of it. I need to see that there’s a winning team because I want to keep winning things at this club. “For me, money or a clause don’t mean anything. I don’t have any intention of going anywhere but I want to keep competing and winning.”Twelve months later, Messi was refusing to train, insisting that his 20-year relationship with Barca was over, and trying to force a move to Manchester City.  That Messi, one-club man, captain and icon, would seek to leave Barcelona like this — notifying them in a now-infamous burofax that, as far as he was concerned, he had already gone — should have been unthinkable. And yet this was no spur-of-the-moment decision. We should have seen it coming.Messi had not been happy at Barcelona — with the president, the board or management — for a long time. He admitted as much in the interview that brought a temporary end to the crisis this summer: “I’ve been telling [president Josep Maria Bartomeu] that I wanted to leave all year.” Known for being a reluctant public figure, Messi speaks only when he has something to say — and at 33, he has been more vocal than ever. He was desperate to be heard. Those in charge at Barcelona didn’t listen.This is the story — told with the help of numerous first-hand accounts from sources close to both player and club — of how Messi’s nagging doubts about Barcelona eventually became impossible to ignore, and what happened next.Editors’ note: This story contains reporting from Moises Llorens, Sam Marsden, Alex Kirkland, Rodrigo Faez and Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal. ABOVE ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS both personal and professional, Messi’s discontent stems from his desire to win. And for Messi, winning means the Champions League. Barcelona haven’t done that since 2015. They haven’t even come close. Embarrassed by Liverpool and Roma in recent years, the 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich at the quarterfinal stage of the competition last season, in August, was the tipping point. Messi is intensely aware of the impact Barca’s European failings will have on his legacy. Four Champions League titles are more than enough for mortals. But not for Messi. Several sources pinpoint one moment that best reveals Messi’s disenchantment. It came at Camp Nou in May 2019. Barca were 3-0 up in the first leg of their semifinal against Liverpool. In the 96th minute, Messi — who had scored twice — drew three defenders before squaring the ball for an unmarked Ousmane Dembele. Dembele miskicked, Alisson made the easy save and Messi fell theatrically to the floor, face down in the turf. He knew that Barcelona needed another goal — the season before, Roma erased a first-leg, 4-1 deficit to advance on away goals to the semifinals — because his teammates couldn’t be trusted to defend a 3-0 lead away from home. Six days later, he was proved right.”The last chance for Dembele was clear-cut,” Messi told reporters after the first leg. “Four goals would have been better than three.”How do you prevent those mistakes from happening again and again? One approach might involve a clear-eyed vision of the kind of team you want to construct. But Barcelona’s planning has been incoherent at best. Losing Neymar, with whom Messi loved to play, to Paris Saint-Germain was perhaps forgivable. Wasting almost €300 million on Dembele and Philippe Coutinho — both yet to come good, three years on — less so. The club failed to bring Neymar back last summer, signing Antoine Griezmann instead for a similar sum. Griezmann is a player who has failed to adapt for various reasons, including the fact his preferred position is taken by MessiA series of sporting directors — Andoni Zubizarreta, Robert Fernandez, Pep Segura, Eric Abidal and Ramon Planes — have come and gone over the past five years, all of them unable to implement an effective long-term strategy because they were never afforded the time to do so. They have all been made scapegoats by Bartomeu, sacrificed as symbols of the club’s shortcomings. Among them, they brought in a mishmash of players recruited with different ideas in mind. New signings arrived, flopped and left. Legendary midfielder Andres Iniesta departed. Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets got older.Messi waited, despairingly, for things to get better. EVEN AS BARCELONA FAILED IN EUROPE, they at least continued to win La Liga. Manager Ernesto Valverde, despite his unpopularity among some Barca fans, won the league ahead of Real Madrid in 2018 and 2019. Messi liked Valverde. Sources told ESPN that the easygoing, diplomatic Valverde maintained relative harmony in a dressing room divided between two cliques: one, led by Messi, Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal, who were essentially happy under the coach’s laid-back regime; and another, including Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Frenkie de Jong, who would have preferred a more disciplined approach. That balance endured until January this year when Valverde was sacked — with Barca top of the league — after defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa in Saudi Arabia. He was replaced by Quique Setien, a man with no experience managing a group of players at this level. The fallout from Valverde’s firing was damaging, too. Sporting director Abidal said in an interview with Sport in February that “a lot of players weren’t happy [with Valverde] and weren’t working a lot.”Messi, in a rare moment of rage, snapped. “I honestly don’t like to do these things, but I think everyone should take responsibility for their decisions,” he wrote on Instagram. “The sporting department should take responsibility. When you talk about players, you should give names. If not, you’re tarnishing all of us and feeding things which people say and aren’t true.”Abidal touched a nerve. Messi is incredibly sensitive to the idea that he runs things at Barcelona, responsible for hiring and firing coaches and identifying transfer targets. It’s understandable, even if it’s hard to dispute the grain of truth at its heart: that Barca should do everything possible to keep their best-ever player happy.Barca had been failing to do that on the pitch; they were failing off it, too. In February, it was alleged that a company the club had hired to protect its image was behind social media accounts posting disparaging comments about current and former players. Messi and his family were mentioned. It was another blow to his already fragile relationship with Bartomeu, even if Barca continue to deny any wrongdoing in the scandal that’s come to be known as “Barcagate.” SETIEN HAD A BRIEF AND TROUBLED SPELL IN CHARGE. From the beginning, Messi was not impressed with him despite hyped-up claims of a return to the more attacking, possession-based style of play made famous at the club by Johan Cruyff and, later, Pep Guardiola.An uneasy, six-month truce lasted until June, when La Liga returned after its pandemic-enforced break. When Barca dropped their first points in a frustrating goalless draw with Sevilla, sources told ESPN that there was a tense dressing room showdown between captain and coach as stunned teammates looked on.The top-of-the-table lead that Setien had inherited from Valverde quickly disappeared. Real Madrid won 10 games in a row, while Barca dropped points in four of theirs. Their title challenge ended with a 2-1 home defeat to Osasuna on July 16. Speaking immediately afterward, Messi didn’t hold back.Things had “all gone wrong” since January, he said, in a blatant criticism of his new coach. “We’ve been a very erratic, weak, low-intensity team. Today’s game is a summary of the season. We have to be self-critical, starting with the players but across the whole club.” BARCELONA HAD WON NOTHING IN 2019-20, their first trophyless campaign in 12 years. Setien was dismissed. His replacement was club legend Ronald Koeman, but it was too late. Messi’s mind was made up. A first meeting between Messi and Koeman — one that saw Messi interrupt his holiday with Suarez and Jordi Alba in the Pyrenees to return to Barcelona on Aug. 20 — did not go well. Messi expressed his doubts and remained determined to leave the club.Around the same time, he called Guardiola.”Messi and Pep spoke for hours,” a source told ESPN. The pair are close and have much in common. Messi, Guardiola and Manchester City all share an obsession with the Champions League. City have never won it; Guardiola and Messi are thought not to have won it often enough.Messi knew that his options for leaving Barcelona were limited. Unlike Barca, he viewed City as having a clear strategy and an upward trajectory. The player told his former coach that he wanted to move. Guardiola said he would talk to decision-makers at City. It wouldn’t be straightforward, he warned.Messi’s flirtation with City was nothing new. In fact, City’s rebuild under their new owners over the past decade has been carried out with the aim of attracting first Guardiola and, later, Messi. There were discussions in 2014, and again in 2016. Yet City’s hopes of signing Messi this summer were dependent on them playing in the Champions League. Once their two-year ban from European competitions was lifted on July 13, they knew they would be the front-runners to sign him if he left Barca.There was never any direct contact between the clubs, nor did Messi’s camp transmit directly to Barca a desire to move to City, but sources at the Catalan club say were informed of City’s interest in signing Messi by a third party. It gave City a lot to think about. Could they afford Messi’s salary? How much would they have to pay Barca? What about financial fair play? His €700m buyout clause was impossible, even for City. There was a more tantalising prospect, though: Messi might be available for nothing.The mechanism by which they thought they could pull off a deal had existed for years. Messi’s long-term doubts led his advisers to insert a release clause in his Barca contract when it was renewed in 2017. At the end of the 2019-20 season, within a defined period, he could unilaterally rescind his contract and walk away.And so, Barcelona’s board nervously waited. In the end, the date — initially widely reported as May 31, later corrected to June 10 — fell when La Liga was about to resume. Nonetheless, when it had passed, the club were quick to brief the media. As far as they were concerned, Messi would be staying until 2021. Messi has since said he didn’t inform the club before then because they were still involved in La Liga and the Champions League; one source, though, says the fact City were banned from European football before winning an appeal also complicated his route out of Camp Nou.The original date in Messi’s contract had been drawn up to coincide with the end of the season. But with the campaign extended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Messi’s camp felt they had some wiggle room when it came to the interpretation of the clause.Sources told ESPN that the feedback Messi received from legal experts was mixed. Only one law firm out of at least four consulted, Cuatrecasas, believed the argument had a realistic chance of success. That was enough and Messi decided to go ahead. If he stood his ground, perhaps Barca would blink first. AUG. 24 BEGAN WITH A PHONE CALL from Koeman to Suarez. In a conversation that lasted around a minute, the coach told Messi’s best friend in the squad that he was not in Barca’s plans and should look for a new club. Vidal received similar treatment. Messi’s allies were being pushed out and, in his view, disrespected. Later that day, Messi took action. On advice from Cuatrecasas, the player opted to use a burofax — a registered letter, used when legal proof of receipt is required — to inform Barcelona that he wished to leave for free, exercising his release clause. Signed by Messi, it was sent just after 7 p.m. By mid-morning on Aug. 25, the letter had arrived at Camp Nou. – Lowe: Messi, bad blood and a ‘burofax’ The first to read it, aghast, were Bartomeu and the head of Barca’s legal department, Roma Gomez Ponti. “They could not believe their eyes,” a source told ESPN. For them, there was no debate: The clause had already expired. “Put aside everything else you’ve been working on and focus on this,” Bartomeu told the club’s lawyers. Barcelona contacted two firms specialising in sports law — Costa Torrecillas & Associates and Bufete Antras — for advice. (The former had won the club a favourable judgment months earlier in their dispute with Neymar over a renewal bonus.) Both firms agreed Barca were in the right and should not give in to Messi’s demands. Despite that, sources told ESPN at the time there were board members who supported letting Messi go. Not for free, mind you, but if it meant bringing in a large fee and removing his €90m salary from the wage bill, the club might be able to dig itself out of a €300m financial hole during the COVID-19 crisis.”Messi has so much power at the club, both on a financial and sporting level,” one source said. Another, close to the dressing room, went further. “It’s the moment to sell him, it’s a historic opportunity to be able to change things. There are players who will perform a lot better without him in the team.”Those voices believed a managed departure could be beneficial, but the president would not entertain the prospect. It was €700m from a buying club, or he stays. “Bartomeu doesn’t want to be the president who agrees to the sale of Messi,” a source told ESPN, even as another source said, “it’s the best thing he could have done.”Bartomeu might have ruined his relationship with Messi — the player called him a liar, claiming Bartomeu had assured him he would let him go — but he got his wish. In the end, he won’t be the president who oversees Messi’s departure; after all, the club’s presidential elections will happen on March 20 or 21 next year, before Messi’s contract expires. AT MANCHESTER CITY, there had been a growing acceptance that signing Messi for free was impossible, so they turned their attention to a negotiated settlement. After several days of crunching numbers, a source told ESPN that “if Barcelona let him leave for €100 or 150m, Messi will be a City player.” City were also willing to include players of interest to Barca, such as young defender and La Masia product Eric Garcia, in a deal, although ESPN was told that others, including Gabriel JesusBernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, would not be included.All of that depended on Barca being willing to budge. Messi waited and maintained his silence, even skipping coronavirus testing ahead of a return for preseason training with new coach Koeman. Board members who’d been critical of Messi felt he should be fined for that; Bartomeu believed doing so would escalate the crisis. As Barca drafted burofaxes of their own to correspond with their absent captain, sources told ESPN that some versions specified that there would be no punishment, while others left the option open. On the morning of Sept. 2, Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, flew from Rosario, Argentina, to Barcelona for a meeting with Bartomeu that evening, but no progress was made. Bartomeu had one important thing as leverage: Messi could not stomach a legal battle. He was determined to leave, but not if the process descended into lengthy litigation. City were reluctant to take that road, too.Everything changed on Sept. 4. In an interview with Goal’s Ruben Uria, Messi announced his decision to stay. “The president told me the only way to leave was to pay the €700m clause, which is impossible, and that the alternative was going to court,” Messi said. “I would never take Barca to court because it’s the club I love.” It could have ended differently. Some at Barcelona feel that Messi’s approach — both in law and in public relations — was flawed from the start. “He didn’t choose the best communications strategy,” one source told ESPN. “If he had timed it better, he could have finished off Bartomeu and he’d be at Manchester City by now.” In this reading, Messi’s fundamental mistake was a failure to articulate his decision to leave sooner, and to speak directly to the fans — perhaps, as many other players might have done, on their social media accounts — before the burofax was sent.Others question whether the prospect of another year of an unhappy Messi is best for Barca. The No. 10 has channelled his anger on the pitch before with positive results for the team; he might do so again. But ESPN has been told that some players thought a fresh start, with a new coach and without Messi, might have been the best for everyone. SO MESSI STAYS FOR NOW, but so do his doubts, expressed so clearly and concisely when he finally spoke out. “The truth is that for a while there hasn’t been a project or anything,” he said. “They’ve been juggling things and plugging holes.”But the story doesn’t end there. Bartomeu will be gone soon and a new president is to be elected in March. He might not even make it until then if a vote of no confidence, launched on the back of Messi’s burofax, goes against him in the coming weeks. There could be as many as 10 people in the running to replace Bartomeu, too — Victor Font is one of the early favourites to inherit the role and he has said that, in addition to bringing former Barca midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez back as coach, he wants to make sure Messi stays. Not one of the candidates has said they want to build a Barca without Messi, despite the fact he will be 34 next summer.Messi has leverage. With his deal officially expiring in June, he is able to negotiate with other clubs starting in January. No legal battle, no drama, at least of the sort we’ve witnessed this past summer.Will the new president be able to convince him to renew his deal? Messi has said the club must sign young players to freshen up an aging squad. That is slowly happening, but it’s coming at the expense of his closest friends at the club: Vidal has joined Inter Milan and Suarez is headed to Atletico Madrid.So much depends on the next eight months, on how Koeman does and on who wins the elections. Beyond all that, though, it depends on one thing: on Barcelona having a winning team.

9/25/20 – EPL Week 3, MLS schedules released, Indy 11 tie St. Louis – play Wed vs KC in must Win, Former CFC on All American Watchlist

EPL

Ok after bitching last week I gave up signed up for the free week on the Peacock – and while I could see the game on my phone and computer only no TV – man it was not good quality?  After watching German games this weekend on ESPN+, and Champ League/SuperCup on CBS all Access Thurs – seriously the peacock stinks.  Replays are immediately available on most streaming but not on Peacock.  If you miss the game live – tough crap you have to wait until 9 pm to see a replay.  Heck – you can’t even re-wind if say you miss the first few minutes of the game – login late.  And the quality is questionable at best oh and it can’t be seen on your TV though I hear they made a deal with Roku sticks finally which kicks in this weekend I guess.  Again – the whole thing makes me sick – the money grabbing to watch these games will not help grow the game of soccer in this country.  Oh well – of course the biggest game of the weekend was on Peacock as defending champs Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-0 after Chelsea went down to 10 men on a questionable red card call just after half of a 0-0 game.  This weeks games offer a little more on NBCSN as Everton vs Crystal Palace at 10 am on NBCSN Sat and Man City vs Leicester City on Sunday at 11:30 am.  NBC gives us Chelsea vs West Brom – not sure yet if Pulisic will play.  Of course the best game is Monday’s Liverpool vs Arsenal on the Peacock of course at 3 pm after Fulham vs Aston Villa at 12:45. Interesting story reputation in Soccer regarding Kepa at Chelsea.  Also huge news that Garreth Bale is returning to Spurs on a season long loan from Real Madrid where they are paying more than half his wages – still I suspect he’ll do fine when he finally gets on the field from injuries. 

Indy 11 Tie

Frustrating night for our Indy 11 once again as they needed 2 sending offs to rally and tie St. Louis 1-1 late on Wednesday night at the Luke.  As a result, Indy Eleven (7W-5L-2D, 23 pts.) kept its grip on second place in Group E, with Saint Louis FC (6W-4L-4D, 22 pts.) remaining right on its heels one point behind. With Louisville City FC (9W-3L-2D, 29 pts.) all but clinching the top spot with tonight’s deadlock, Indy and Saint Louis can now focus solely on claiming the group’s other USL Championship Playoffs spot via favorable results in their final two games over the next 10 days – including next Saturday’s finale in Missouri. Prior to that ultimate showdown, STL will host Louisville this Saturday evening, followed by Indy Eleven welcoming Sporting Kansas City next Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, tickets are available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets.  Oh and we all need to root for Louisville Sat. night game 8 pm on ESPN+ vs St. Louis.

Bayern Munich Wins Super Cup

After winning the Champions League in dominating fashion this summer – Bayern followed that up with a hard fought 2-1 win over Sevilla in the EUFA Supercup on Thurs.  It went to extra-time before Germany won on a corner header into the backpost –where no defender was of course!  I have to say I was a bit disappointed to see American outside defender Sergino Dest choose Barcelona this week over Bayern.  I have always respected Bayern but hate the way they buy all the good players in Germany – much like the Yankees in baseball.  But having Dest would have me tuning in more to watch.  Oh well – we do get the Bayern vs Dortmund German Supercup this Wednesday at 2:30 pm on ESPN+.  Saturday at 9:30 am on ESPN+ both American’s play as Tyler Adams of RB Leipzig vs Leverkusen and Gio Reyna of Dortmund (fresh of his first goal last weekend at just 17) will face Ausberg.

MLS Announces Rest of Schedule

MLS is moving from regional pod play to full country travel now as they try to get the remainder of the season in as safely as possible.  Attempting to limit hotel stays and fly only on gamedays while the Canadian teams hunker down in the US with no ability to return home for the next 3 months.  Lots of Wednesday night games on ESPN+ and Sat and Sun nights mainly.  Not sure yet on TV games as FS1 seems to have slowed down MLS coverage?  I see nothing on network TV this week?  Lots of games on ESPN+ see schedule below including league leaders Seattle traveling to LA Galaxy Sunday at 10:30 pm on ESPN+. 

Games to Watch

CBS has NWSL on Saturday at 1 pm with the Chicago Red Stars hosting the Washington Spirit– the game last week had ½ million in viewership – better each week.  Juve and American midfielder Weston McKinney host Roma on Sunday at 2:45 pm on ESPN+, right before Barcelona faces Villarreal at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  US Players games wrap up here

Congrats CHS MIC Champs

Congrats to the both the Men’s and Women’s CHS Soccer teams for winning the MIC Conference this week.  The #2 ranked ladies lost a close one 2-0 at #1 Noblesville Monday – they return to action Sat at home 11 am vs Zionsville.   The 4th ranked boys fresh off a 1-1 tie with Pike to secure the MIC title play home to Guerin Sat at 2 pm.  Lots of former Carmel FC players on the teams – especially on the girls side might be worth checking out.  Also Huge Congrats to home grown former Carmel FCers CHS Seniors Brooke Bailey and GK Erin Baker for making the 2020 All-American Watchlist

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Sept 26 

7:30 am Peacock                            Brighton vs Man United  

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

9:30 am ESPN+                              Dortmund (Gio Reyna) vs Ausburg

10 am NBCSN                                    Crystal Palace vs Everton

11 am bein Sport                                 St Etienne vs Rennes  France  

12:30 pm ESPN+                                Schalke vs Werder Bremen (Stuart)

12:30 pm NBC                  West Brom vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

1 pm CBS                                 Chicago Red Stars vs Washington NWSL

3  pm bein Sport                                  Real Betis vs Real Madrid Spain 

3 pm Peacock                                      Burnely vs Southampton

3:30 pm Univision                              Nashville vs Houston Dynamo

7 pm ESPN+                                       Cincy vs NYCFC            

Sun, Sept 27 

9am NBCSN                                       Tottenham vs New Castle United

9:30 am ESPN+                                  Hoffenhiem vs Bayern Munich

10 am beiN  port                                 Atletico Madrid vs Grenada

11:30 am NBCSN                             Man City vs Leicester City  

2 pm Peacock                                      West Ham vs Wolverhampton           

2:45 pm ESPN+                                Juventus (McKinney) vs Roma

3 pm beIN Sport                                 Barcelona vs Villarreal

1 pm Peacock                                      Aston Villa vs Sheffield United

3:15 pm Man City                               Wolverhampton vs Man City 

9:45 pm Univsion                               Cruz Azul vs America  (Mex)

10:30 pm ESPN+                                LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders

Mon, Sept 28 

12:45 pm Peacock                               Fulham (Tim Ream) vs Aston Villa

3 pm Peacock                       Liverpool vs Arsenal   

Wed, Sept 30   

12 pm ESPN+                                     Benevento vs Inter

2:30 pm ESPN+                   Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna) – SuperCup

3:30 pm beIN Sport                            Real Madrid vs Real Valladolid  

7 pm My Indy TV 23, ESPN+    Indy 11 vs KC 2 at Lucus Oil

USA

Reyna scores his first Goal in Bundesliga Play for Dortmunddea

Where the USMNT stars are playing across Europe   Jeff Carlisle, Tom Hamilton
Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

Reports: Ajax, Barcelona reach agreement over USMNT’s Dest

USA GK Steffen on Life at Man City
USMNT GK Steffen Makes His Man City Debut BY AVI CREDITOR SI

How 7 Americans fared in Bundesliga Wk 1

Why is soccer a White Only Sport in America?   – yahoo Soccer

EPL

Mendy to Chelsea analysis
Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense?
Kepa – Issues lie with Reputation and Price Tag more than Regression  – Leander Schaerlaeckens yahoo soccer  
English lower leagues face £200m loss from empty stadiums

 WORLD

Chelsea’s changes, Madrid’s malaise, Bayern’s challengers: way-too-early analysis from Europe’s big leagues  7hBill Connelly

Chelsea’s changes and more way-too-early analysis from Europe’s big leagues 4hBill Connelly
Morata returns to Juventus on loan from Atletico Madrid
UEFA allows five substitutes in Champions League and international matches
Derek Rae: How I fell in love with German soccer, culture and the Bundesliga
  Derek Rae
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Tests Positive for CoronavirusBY AVI CREDITOR
 

USMNT weekend viewing guide: relegation thoughts already?

Schalke and Werder face off in an early season disaster waiting to happen among other action

By jcksnftsn  Sep 25, 2020, 9:00am PDT

It could be a quiet weekend for those still holding out on getting ESPN+ and without access to beIN Sports as there are just a couple of alternatives and one of those looks to be ruined by Christian Pulisic’s unavailability this weekend. But enough about what we can’t have here’s what you can watch this weekend.

Friday

Lille v Nantes – 3p on beIN Sports

Timothy Weah has consistently appeared off the bench for Lille as he continues to work his way back into the team following a long struggle with hamstring injuries. The team has collected eight points through their first four matches but have scored just one goal in each game so there may be a need for an offensive spark that Weah could provide. This weekend Lille will be facing a Nantes side coming off a 2-2 draw and currently sitting in 14th place.

Looking through the paywall:

  • Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt face Hertha Berlin at 2:30p on ESPN+. Chandler has seen just 19 minutes combined across all competitions early in the season.

Saturday

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea – 12:30p

What would be the match of the weekend for mainstream USMNT fans is unfortunately ruined by Christian Pulisic being unavailable due to ongoing recovery. Pulisic is reportedly unavailable this weekend but could be back in action next week.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1309492350570299395&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.starsandstripesfc.com%2F2020%2F9%2F25%2F21455776%2Fusmnt-weekend-viewing-guide-relegation-thoughts-already-budesliga-chelsea-epl-ajax&siteScreenName=StarsStripesFC&theme=light&widgetsVersion=219d021%3A1598982042171&width=550px Chelsea are coming off a 2-0 loss to Liverpool and will be looking to bounce back against a West Brom team that has given up eight goals in their first two matches.

Other Notes:

  • The Chicago Red Stars face the Washington Spirit at 1p on CBS in NWSL action. The NWSL has been a but gutted by major stars heading overseas for the next several months but Alyssa Naeher remains in goal for the Red Stars and Kealia Watt scored a brace in the teams last match.
  • Nashville and Houston face off in MLS action on Univision Saturday afternoon at 3:30p. Honestly, there’s not much in this match that most USMNT fans want to claim with even Walker Zimmerman falling out of favor in many circles.

Looking through the paywall:

  • Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig face Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+ in an early season matchup of potential top-four competitors.
  • Giovanni Reyna and the Borussia Dortmund youngster’s face Augsburg at 9:30 a on EPSN+.
  • An early season relegation face-off as Schalke and Werder Bremen meet at 12:30p on ESPN+? Both teams have looked pretty poor early on this season but at least Josh Sargent is seeing some good minutes (IN THE MIDFIELD!?!)
  • Ajax play Vitesse at 3p on ESPN+. The Sergino Dest tug of war that most would have never imagined for a USMNT player just a couple years ago continues to swing wildly back and forth between Bayern and Barcelona but for the moment Dest remains with Ajax.

Sunday

Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United – 9a on NBCSN

Another American that seems likely to be on the move is DeAndre Yedlin who has yet to see any minutes in league play for Newcastle this season. In fact the RB who is reportedly receiving interest from MLS and Besiktas has not even made the bench in the teams first two matches. Yedlin did have a very generous assist in the teams 7-0 thumping of League Two side Morecambe FC in EFL Cup action but it seems he’ll be unlikely to feature as the team faces Tottenham on Sunday morning.

Looking through the paywall:

  • John Anthony Brooks and Wolfsburg face Freiburg at Noon on ESPN+. Wolfsburg drew their opening match with Bayer Leverkusen 0-0.
  •  

USMNT learns Nations League dates, says no October friendlies

Nicholas MendolaNBC Sports•September 22, 2020CONCACAF’s summer is going to be red-hot as its top sides will scrap multiple times on the road to World Cup qualifying.In other words, we might see the USMNT meet Mexico twice in a month.The USMNT, Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica are among the group of sides waiting to see who advances from the postponed first stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The final round of World Cup qualifying had already been postponed.It was revealed Tuesday that the quartet will now play the first ever CONCACAF Nations League Finals in June, three months behind schedule and just before the 2021 Gold Cup.The Gold Cup was previously postponed to June 10 – July 1 and the draw is set for Monday.The Nations League semifinals see No. 1 seed Mexico against No. 4 Costa Rica and the No. 2 Catrachos of Honduras meeting the third-seeded USMNT.A U.S. Soccer Federation release said the move is to put the focus on first stage of qualifying (It also gives all of the participants more time to figure out the pandemic atmosphere if it, as anticipated, reaches into a second year dramatically affecting sporting competitions):

This official competition Finals event will take place in a centralized location in the United States in June 2021. Concacaf will now work with our stakeholders to finalize the location and specific dates for this competition.

Playing this competition in June 2021 will enable the First Round of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup, which involve 30 Concacaf Member Associations, to take center stage in March 2021.

Concacaf remains in discussions with FIFA to agree a new schedule for the Concacaf Qualifiers which retains the current format.

[ WATCH: Gooch’s solo goal for Sunderland ]

U.S. Soccer also announced that it will not play any matches or train in the October international break, aiming for a November return. That means Christian Pulisic will have even more time to find top form for Chelsea.General manager Brian McBride says Gregg Berhalter’s group may have an additional December camp with its January camp, which is great news for MLS players hoping to cement their statuses in Berhalter’s mind while the European talent continues to play overseas.“After extensive conversations about holding a men’s national team camp in October, we ultimately determined the unique challenges created by COVID-19 as it relates to hosting international opponents and getting our players together wouldn’t allow us to move forward,” men’s team general manager Brian McBride said, via the Associated Press. “While we won’t have the team together in this upcoming window, we are making considerable progress for November.”

Matt Doyle’s best hypothetical US men’s national team starting XI

September 24, 20209:26AM EDT  MLSsoccer staff

Here’s the hypothetical. The US men’s national team has a critical 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier coming up in November. What would be your starting XI?It’s a question posed to Matt Doyle on Extratime presented by Continental. Watch the video and check out the breakdown by position after the video below.

In goal, Doyle would go with New England Revolution backstop Matt Turner over Zack Steffen.

Defenders

Doyle had no doubts about his backline: Sergiño Dest, John Brooks, Aaron Long and Reggie Cannon.

Midfielders

The fixtures for Doyle are MLS academy products Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie partnering in central midfield. Also, ex-NYCFC academy player Gio Reyna would occupy the string-pulling No. 10 in midfield, with a caveat:

“Although Sebastian Lletget has been great for the US national team every time he’s played for the US national team and he has been great recently for the Galaxy, one of the best players in the league, Reyna is probably a different level,” Doyle said.A healthy Christian Pulisic mans the left wing spot, while Jordan Morris is on the right ahead of Tim Weah, who isn’t at full fitness yet.However, if this important match were to be held in March 2021, Doyle would consider one potential change.“I would put Reyna as that right side pinched-in winger and [Paxton] Pomykal in the central midfield,” he said. “But Pomykal hasn’t been healthy at all this year, but when he has played, he has been one of the very best players in the league.”

Forward

Up front, Doyle picks Josh Sargent over Jozy Altidore.“Jozy does not look like the Jozy of even last year so far in 2020 and we have to recognize that,” he said.In fact, the Toronto FC striker wouldn’t even be his No. 2 choice.“I’m considering Gyasi [Zardes] because Gyasi’s been incredible,” Doyle said, calling the Columbus Crew SC forward “the MVP of MLS at this point,” while touting Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse as one to watch eventually.“I love Ebobisse, it’s not at the point where I’m thinking of starting him in a World Cup qualifier,” Doyle said. “Not quite yet.”

Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

Nicholas MendolaNBC SportsSep 22, 2020, 10:10 PM

View photos

The European season is back in full flow, Major League Soccer is hitting its stretch run, and we have USMNT calendar news.Yet it’s the transfer market that’s inspired us to revisit our periodic ranking of the top 25 players in the USMNT player pool.Sergino Dest looks destined for either Barcelona or Bayern Munich, while Weston McKennie is off to Juventus and is currently learning midfield next to Adrien Rabiot, behind Aaron Ramsey, over Arthur, and under the watchful eye of Andrea Pirlo.If you’re the swooning type, here’s where you swoon.It’s been 10 months and 10 days since our first rankings hit ProSoccerTalk and there’s been a pandemic pause, restart of one season, and beginning of another since our second.Where is the player pool now? As a reminder, here are some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Konrad de la Fuente is a better long-term prospect than 30-year-old Jozy Altidore, but most would rather have the Toronto FC man in a big spot right now.

Obviously there’s been plenty of movement.

Top 25 USMNT players – September 2020 

1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (1)

2. Tyler Adams, RB Leizpig (4) — Just out here scoring UCL tie-deciding goals

3. Weston McKennie, Juventus (2) — Oh, hi there. This is cool.

4. John Brooks, Wolfsburg (3)

5. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (13) — This is 17 years old? Come on.

6. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (8)

7. Sergino Dest, Ajax (5) — Barcelona or Bayern Munich?

8. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (18) — Midfield?

9. Zack Steffen, Manchester City (9) — First Man City start probably comes Thursday.

10. Antonee Robinson, Fulham (10) — Come on, Scott Parker. Put him in there.

11. Timothy Weah, Lille (14) — Working back to fitness and form. Came off the bench in first three Ligue 1 games.12. Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (21) — Looking good in second full season with the Turkish giants

13. Julian Green, Greuther Furth (12)

14. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (25)

15. Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (7)

16. Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (NR) — If you’re yelling at this, I get it, but you’re not watching MLS. He’s been wonderful.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1307492707313606657&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fsports.yahoo.com%2Ftop-25-players-usmnt-pool-021055892.html&siteScreenName=YahooSports&theme=light&widgetsVersion=219d021%3A1598982042171&width=550px 17. Matt Miazga, Chelsea (17) — Rumors of a Trabzonspor loan are interesting.

18. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Spurs (20) — Crushed it at Luton Town. Is Bournemouth next?

19. Darlington Nagbe, Columbus Crew (NR)

20. Reggie Cannon, Boavista (NR)

21. Brendan Aaronson, Philadelphia Union (NR) — Credit to Gregg Berhalter, who saw it before any of us.

22. Matt Turner, New England (NR) — Incredible season alert.

23. Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls (NR)

24. Tim Ream, Fulham (13)

25. Henry Wingo, Molde (NR) — Unsure where the Norwegian league rates in relation to MLS, but Wingo’s moved from non-regular with Seattle to starting right back on a team knocking on the door of the UEFA Champions League group stage. Plus I had like nine names I liked for spots 23, 24, and 25.

() last ranking

Notes

  • Columbus’ resurgence this season has seen Zardes and Nagbe shine. It’s difficult not to place them higher than we initially planned.
  • Judging the center back pool has become fraught. Chelsea’s Matt Miazga and Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers are on a loan recycling program and have done well but we haven’t really seen them outside of the Championship. MLS regulars Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, and Aaron Long are good on inconsistent teams. After John Brooks, who knows?
  • Dropping out are DeAndre Yedlin, Jozy Altidore, Cristian Roldan, Ike Opara, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Miles Robinson, Paul Arriola, and Jackson Yueill.
  • Small sample size, but if you’re the top rated player on Besiktas then you’re Tyler Boyd and you’re getting a higher spot than we anticipated when we started the post.

Last five out: Chris Richards, Bayern Munich; Duane Holmes, Derby County; DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United; Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt; Frankie Amaya, FC Cincinnati.

Keep an eye on: Ulysses Llanez, Heerenveen (loan from Wolfsburg); Cole Bassett, Colorado Rapids; Julian Araujo, LA Galaxy; Chris Mueller, Orlando City; Konrad de la Fuente, Barcelona; Indiana Vassilev, Burton Albion (loan from Aston Villa); Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas; Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC; Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders; Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC.

McKennie, Pulisic, Reyna and more: Breaking down a big season for USMNT stars across Europe

14, 2020Jeff CarlisleTom Hamilton ESPN FC

The 2020-21 soccer season is kicking off all over Europe, with the English Premier League and Spanish Primera Divisions beginning this past weekend, and the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A (both leagues available LIVE all season long on ESPN+ in the United States) starting on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 respectively. In addition to the usual talking points and discussions over title favorites and relegation threats, it’s indirectly a big season for the U.S. national team, who boast several of their stars in top European leagues along with several prospects beyond the 2022 World Cup cycle.With so many USMNT stars dotted around Europe and gearing up for a long campaign, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Tom Hamilton broke down where they all are, and what their prospects are for the new season.

Christian PulisicChelsea (English Premier League)

Overall, Pulisic’s first year in the Premier League was a success, as he tallied nine goals and four assists in 34 league and cup appearances. In the process he put to rest any doubts about whether he could hack it skill-wise in the EPL, as he often dazzled on the left wing while also drifting inside.

This season, Pulisic will be hoping to build on what he achieved in 2019-20, but with an added challenge: staying healthy. The U.S. international suffered two muscle injuries — a hip ailment at the start of the year and a hamstring issue in the FA Cup final — and that continued a trend from his time at Borussia Dortmund. The competition for places is still there with the likes of Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech arriving to replace William and Pedro, along with Callum Hudson-OdoiMason Mount, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to contend with. But there seems to be a bit more faith in Pulisic heading into the season, as witnessed by him being given the No. 10 shirt. — Carlisle

John Brooks, DF, VfL Wolfsburg (German Bundesliga)

As has been a recurring theme throughout his career, Brooks endured an inconsistent season for the Wolves. He made 31 appearances in all competitions in helping Wolfsburg to a seventh-place finish and qualification for the Europa League. But he also endured a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a month, and he was even benched for a time by manager Oliver Glasner in February. To his credit he reclaimed his spot shortly thereafter, but then faded a bit after the return from the COVID-19 shutdown.Brooks is likely to continue to be a mainstay for Wolfsburg this season, even if his start — he was red-carded in a Europa League defeat to Shaktar Donetsk — was auspicious. That only highlights the need for more consistency. Can he achieve it? At age 27, Brooks is basically fully formed as a player, but one can still hope that his accumulated experience will see him raise his level during the current campaign. — Carlisle

Weston McKennie, MF, Juventus (Italian Serie A)

All summer, as McKennie trained at Schalke waiting for his move, it looked like the USMNT star centre midfielder would be off to the Premier League. McKennie, 22, was being chased hard by Southampton and Leicester; then, as Andrea Pirlo settled into the hottest of seats at Juventus, in came the Serie A giants and in the blink of an eye McKennie was on a private jet to Turin.McKennie is a brilliant box-to-box midfielder. Throughout Schalke’s tough campaign, in which they finished 12th in the Bundesliga, McKennie’s energy was infectious and he was a rare ray of light in a dismal campaign in Gelsenkirchen. He led from the front and was also one of the early voices in football’s messages of anti-racism and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.This season, McKennie will not have it easy at Juventus. At Schalke he was one of the first names on the team sheet, but this term he has the likes of Arthur (arriving from Barcelona for £66m), Sami KhediraAdrien RabiotRodrigo Bentancur and Aaron Ramsey to contend with for a spot in the starting XI. Still, expect him to thrive. He has signed for Juventus on a loan deal with the option to make this a permanent stay, and we predict this will become a formality as he slots right into life at the Serie A champions. — Hamilton

Tyler Adams, MF, RB Leipzig (German Bundesliga)

The versatile 21-year-old scored the winning goal for RB Leipzig in their Champions League quarterfinal win over Atletico Madrid in the 2019-20 campaign and has established himself as a key cog in the Julian Nagelsmann machine. Having signed for the Bundesliga high-flyers from New York Red Bulls in January 2019 for a bargain £2.37m, Adams’ versatility means he can cover any position across the back four and happily slot in along the midfield. For a manager who doesn’t believe in formations and values pressing, Adams is a dream of a player.

Having played 18 times for Leipzig last campaign, Adams’ goals for this term will be to start more matches for the Bundesliga side. With a relentless campaign facing Nagelsmann’s squad as they battle on three fronts, with the Champions League also on their radar, his versatility and work rate will be key. The goal for Leipzig is a top-four finish in the German league, and Adams will be doing everything to ensure they reach and, ideally, surpass expectations like they did last season. — Hamilton

Zack Steffen, GK, Manchester City (English Premier League)

Having signed for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City from Columbus Crew in July 2019 for £6.14m, the goalkeeper is still waiting for his first-team debut as he spent last term out on loan at Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf. He made 18 appearances in Germany until injury cut short his season in December. Having suffered from a problem with his knee, he battled back to full fitness only to sustain MCL damage in April that saw him play no further part in the 2019-20 campaign.

Carlisle: Why are US clubs not getting paid for developing talent?

Now back at Manchester City, Steffen is seen by Guardiola as a key part of their squad. With Claudio Bravo having left City at the end of last term on a free transfer and now between the pots at Real Betis, Steffen will vie with the world-class Ederson for a spot in City’s first team. He will likely clock up a number of starts in cup competitions and will add to his 17 caps for the USMNT. — Hamilton

Sergino Dest, DF, Ajax (Dutch Eredivisie)

The young right back enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019-20 and went from the fringes of the senior squad to being one of the most sought-after fullbacks in Europe. Dest, 19, signed his first professional contract with Ajax in December 2018 and made his first-team debut in August 2019. His impressive form for Ajax started turning heads at the Netherlands and then-boss Ronald Koeman was keen for Dest to declare for the Oranje. But Dest, who played youth-level football for the U.S., took his time to shore up his decision and opted for the USMNT.

Exclusive: Why Dest chose U.S. over Netherlands

His trajectory has been rapid, like his darts down the right flank, and he was crowned U.S. Soccer’s Young Male Player of the Year for 2019. But there’s still a chance he has a new club by the end of the transfer window on Oct. 5 as he’s getting plenty of interest. Ajax have a practise of eking out one final season from their ridiculous list of prodigious young talents before they secure a move to one of Europe’s bigger fish. Bayern Munich are still being heavily linked with Dest, and if he moves there he’ll have Benjamin Pavard and Joshua Kimmich as rivals for a spot. But if he does stay put he’ll still be front and centre of Ajax’s Eredivisie and Champions League campaigns. He will look to another season of starting week-in-week-out for the Dutch giants and continuing to develop his game. — Hamilton

Gio Reyna, MF/FW, Borussia Dortmund (German Bundesliga)

The sky’s the limit for the 17-year-old forward. Having joined Borussia Dortmund from MLS side NYCFC in July 2019, Reyna made his debut for the Bundesliga giants in January 2020 and scored a memorable first goal in their DFB-Pokal defeat to Werder Bremen in February. But it was enough to make people sit up and take notice, while those who had followed his promising career — including father Claudio, who won 112 caps for the USMNT, and mother Danielle Egan, who won six caps for the USWNT — knew it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Reyna would start making his mark for Europe’s elite.

– Borden: Gio Reyna is USMNT’s next Captain America

It is easy to forget he has played just 18 first-team matches for Dortmund. But in a team that boasts all-world young talent like Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Reyna has the perfect role models around him to take his game to the next level. He is still waiting to make his USMNT debut — his first chance was delayed in the spring due to the coronavirus outbreak — but expect that to come sooner rather than later. He has all the ability and application to be a USMNT mainstay for the next 15 years, but his goals this season will be to get as much first-team football as possible for Dortmund and continue to develop. — Hamilton

Antonee Robinson, DF, Fulham (English Premier League)

Robinson’s 2019-20 campaign was a veritable roller-coaster. He was one of the few standouts on a Wigan team that ended up being relegated from the English Championship, with his runs forward offering a threat in attack. He nearly parlayed that into a dream move to AC Milan, only to have it scuttled by a heart condition that showed up during his medical. He eventually made a move to Fulham, freshly promoted back to the English top flight.

Robinson’s goal this season will be to force his way into the first team, no easy task at a Premier League club, especially with playoff final hero Joe Bryan ensconced at left-back. Robinson didn’t make the subs bench in the Cottagers’ 3-0 opening-day defeat to Arsenal, but given the investment Fulham have made in him, he’ll be given time to acclimate. — Carlisle

Tim Weah, FW, Lille (French Ligue 1)

Injuries — in particular a recurring hamstring ailment — have so curtailed Weah’s playing time that he’s almost the forgotten man of the U.S. player pool. In his first season with Lille, Weah made just three appearances totaling 84 minutes. Given the time lost, this is very much a critical season for the New York City-born attacker. The early returns on the 2020-21 campaign are that Weah is still in the thoughts of Lille management, making two substitute appearances. Given the difficulty Weah has had staying healthy, it amounts to a promising start that he hopefully can parlay into additional minutes. — Carlisle

Reggie Cannon, DF, Boavista (Portugal Primeira Liga)

Patience paid off for Cannon, who, after two years in FC Dallas‘ academy, a brief stop in college soccer at UCLA and then three-plus seasons with FCD, made the move to Europe with Portuguese side Boavista in September. Since the start of the 2018 season, Cannon was a consistent presence at right back and while his numbers didn’t necessarily catch the eye — he had three goals and five assists in 68 league and playoff appearances — his attacking instincts impressed U.S. national team manager Gregg Berhalter.

At Boavista, Cannon will be making his initial foray into European soccer and he’s already made a positive impression, scoring the opening goal in the club’s 4-1 friendly win over CD Tondela last weekend. The right-back spot for the U.S. is there for the taking, so he’ll need to adapt quickly if he is to grab that position at the international level. — Carlisle

DeAndre Yedlin, DF, Newcastle United (English Premier League)

The big question for Yedlin is simple: Will he even be in Newcastle much longer? Yedlin was a peripheral figure last season, making 20 league and cup appearances, but just 10 starts in league play. (The majority of those came in the front half of the season, too.) Hip and hand injuries also made it difficult for Yedlin to remain in the lineup and he ultimately lost his starting spot to Javier Manquillo.

A change of scenery might do Yedlin good. One would expect that at age 27, and given his Premier League experience, Yedlin would be a shoe-in to be the right back for the U.S. men’s national team, but he seems far from first-choice there. If he can establish himself at a new club — Turkish side Besiktas is among the sides interested in Yedlin — then that might revitalize his career and allow him to reclaim his spot with the U.S. national team. — Carlisle

Tim Ream, DF, Fulham (English Premier League)

The center-back has been a mainstay with Cottagers for the last five seasons, making his 200th appearance for the club in the season-opening 3-0 defeat at Arsenal. In last season’s promotion push, Ream made a staggering 47 league and playoff appearances, testament to his consistency and durability. His passing ability out of the back remains a strength, though as U.S. fans can attest he is guilty of the occasional gaffe.

This season will mark Ream’s third foray into the Premier League, having had previous campaigns with Bolton Wanderers in 2011-12 as well as Fulham’s previous season in the top flight in 2018-19. If Fulham are to avoid relegation this time around, Ream will certainly need to be at his best on both sides of the ball. Fulham can only hope that Ream’s consistency comes to the fore over the course of the campaign. — Carlisle

Matt Miazga, DF, Chelsea (English Premier League)

The 25-year-old centre-back signed for Chelsea in 2016, but has made two Premier League appearances in four years having spent much of that span out on loan. It’s long been Chelsea’s policy to buy promising talent and develop them by sending them out to trusted teams to aid their development. Miazga spent two seasons with Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie and six months at Nantes before arriving at Reading in the Championship. He has played there for the past 18 months.

Miazga made 24 appearances for Reading last term, in a campaign disrupted by a hamstring injury at the start of the season and an ankle injury in January. He picked up a red card in their defeat at Derby in June, following an altercation with Tom Lawrence after the final whistle, and would play one further match for the Royals. This term Miazga will likely spend another season out on loan and is not short of suitors, though his destination is at yet unknown. — Hamilton

Josh Sargent, FW, Werder Bremen (German Bundesliga)

Mark 2019-20 as a season that tested the hugely promising 20-year-old, though one that would have taught him a huge amount. Having been left out of the USMNT Gold Cup squad in the 2019-20 preseason, he had to battle with oscillating between starting for Werder Bremen and finding his role reduced to that of an impact substitute. He picked up an untimely hamstring muscle tear in December that kept him out for six weeks, but as Werder Bremen battled to avoid the drop in the latter part of the Bundesliga campaign, Sargent was instrumental in the German side keeping their spot in the top flight as they won their relegation playoff against Heidenheim.

Hamilton: Talking tattoos and challenges with Josh Sargent

The signs in 2020-21 are promising for Sargent, who played across the front line last term. He carried his impressive preseason form into Bremen’s opening match of the 2020-21 season proper, starting and scoring in Bremen’s 2-0 win at FC Carl Zeiss in the first round of the DFB-Pokal. — Hamilton

Alfredo Morales, MF Fortuna Dusseldorf (German 2. Bundesliga)

Morales shook off an early hamstring injury to be a steady presence for Dusseldorf last season in the center of midfield, making 31 league and cup appearances. But despite his ball-winning and prowess in the air, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Rhinelanders from avoiding the drop.Now Morales will play in the 2. Bundesliga. It’s a league with which he is familiar, having spent a total of five seasons in Germany’s second tier with the likes of Hertha Berlin and Ingolstadt. The challenge this time around will be to return Dusseldorf immediately back to the top flight, and Morales appears to be very much in his team’s plans. He logged 78 minutes in a two-way midfield role in Dusseldorf’s 1-0 German Cup road win over Ingolstadt, the kind of result that Morales and Dusseldorf will need more of as the season progresses. — Carlisle

Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkish Super Lig)

Boyd spent the 2019-20 campaign adjusting to the pressure and expectations of playing for Besiktas, one of Turkey‘s biggest clubs, and it proved to be an up-and-down campaign. The good news is that Boyd made 28 league and cup appearances, but he scored just three goals along with one assist. That level of offensive production was far below what he achieved during a loan stint the previous season with Ankaragucu, when he tallied six goals and four assists in 14 matches.

This season, matters are already looking up for Boyd, with Besiktas showing continued faith in the winger. That was repaid in part when he scored the opener in Beşiktaş’ 3-1 win over Trabzonspor to start the Turkish Super Lig campaign, cutting in from the left wing to fire inside the far post with the help of a slight deflection. Boyd and Besiktas will no doubt be hoping that this is a sign of things to come. — Carlisle

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH

Christian Cappis: The midfielder established himself at Danish Superliga side Hobro last season, making 30 league appearances and scoring one goal while filling a variety of central midfield roles. Cappis even secured an invite to the annual January camp for the U.S. men’s national team, though he was an unused substitute in a 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica. Those performances were such that there was talk of Cappis moving on, but now he finds himself in an unusual situation. Cappis has two years left on his contract, but his work permit to play in Denmark wasn’t renewed and he had to leave the country. Reports out of Denmark say that Hobro’s owner, Lars Kühnel, believes that Cappis will be back some time in the autumn, assuming the player isn’t transferred. In the meantime, all Cappis can do is wait to see how the situation plays out. — Carlisle

Chris Richards: The 20-year-old centre-back is yet to make his USMNT debut, but is on Berhalter’s radar. He is at Europe’s reigning Champions League holders, Bayern Munich, and made his debut in June. This season he will either be in the first-team mix or leave on loan. — Hamilton

Nick Taitague: The 21-year-old attacking midfielder was promoted to Schalke’s first team ahead of this season. He arrived at Schalke in 2017 from the Carolina RailHawks and has played for Schalke II but has the number 29 to his name and will want to make his mark in the Bundesliga this term. — Hamilton

Matthew Hoppe: The Schalke forward has his sights set on breaking into the Bundesliga side’s first team this season and following in the footsteps of the departed McKennie. He is performing well for Schalke’s Under 19s and will look to put forward his case for senior recognition this term. — Hamilton

Ulysses Llanez: The 19-year-old signed for Wolfsburg from LA Galaxy in April 2019 and was promoted to the Bundesliga side’s first team a year later. He scored on his full USMNT debut in February, too, but he’ll spend the season on loan in the Dutch Eredivisie with SC Heerenveen after signing his first professional contract with Wolfsburg this week, a deal that connects him to the club through 2024. — Hamilton

FIFA 21 goalkeepers: Who are the best-rated GK players on the game?

Mon, September 21, 2020, 1:37 AM EDT

While now sometimes powerless to stop a perfectly timed finish in recent FIFA games, a strong goalkeeper remains a huge asset to any side.

Ahead of FIFA 21’s release, EA Sports has released the ratings for the best 20 shot-stoppers in the upcoming game with Atletico Madrid’s number one Jan Oblak coming out on top.

The Slovenia international is only just heading into his prime at 27 years of age but has been a consistent performed for Diego Simeone’s side in both La Liga and European competitions.

Oblak’s one weakness in FIFA 21 is a kicking rating of 78, but 92-rated handling and 90-rated reflexes more than make up for any shortcomings with his boots.

Liverpool’s Alisson has taken out second spot this year with his saves helping guide the Reds to the Premier League title across the 2019-20 season.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen then rounds out the podium, with the Barcelona shot-stopper one of the most well-rounded keepers in the game.

The Premier League has seven representatives in the top 20 this year with Wolves’ Rui Patricio the surprise packet and boasting an overall rating of 84.

Other lesser known names that could be worth scouting out on FIFA 21 include RB Leipzig’s Peter Gulacsi and Torino’s Salvatore Sirigu.

AC Milan prodigy Gianluigi Donnarumma remains the best young goalkeeper in the game and is an ideal long-term signing for any side.

Best goalkeepers on FIFA 21

PlayerClubOverall ratingHandling
Jan OblakAtletico Madrid9192
AlissonLiverpool9088
Marc-Andre ter StegenBarcelona9085
Thibaut CourtoisReal Madrid8989
Manuel NeuerBayern Munich8987
EdersonManchester City8882
Samir HandanovicInter8885
Keylor NavasParis Saint-Germain8781
Hugo LlorisTottenham8782
Wojciech SzczesnyJuventus8782
David De GeaManchester United8681
Yann SommerBorussia Monchengladbach8686
Gianluigi DonnarummaAC Milan8581
Bernd LenoArsenal8583
Peter GulacsiRB Leipzig8585
Roman BurkiBorussia Dortmund8482
Kasper SchmeichelLeicester City8477
Rui PatricioWolverhampton Wanderers8480

The Privilege of Play: Why the world’s game is a white game in the U.S.

Henry BushnellSeptember 22, 2020, 11:00 AM

This is a story about opportunity.It begins in Columbia Heights, a gentrifying neighborhood in Washington D.C., where elite soccer opportunities barely exist. But several years ago, on a lively field behind a public charter school, Precious Ogu clearly deserved one.She glided past helpless middle schoolers that afternoon, unaware of where the sport she loved could take her. She didn’t know much about high-level youth soccer; didn’t know how to progress beyond after-school games. Fortunately, an onlooker did. Amir Lowery, executive director of the Open Goal Project, connected her with a travel program. Precious, the Black daughter of a Nigerian mother, showed up to try out. And she remembers being “shocked.”She’d grown up surrounded by people of all hues, including many who looked like her. Soccer, she’d soon find, looked different.“It was pretty much all white girls,” she says.Soccer, in its purest form, is the most accessible and racially diverse team sport in the world. But American soccer, as Precious realized, is not. It’s disproportionately white and upper-middle-class. Doug Andreassen, the former chair of a U.S. Soccer diversity task force, recognized this decades ago. He’d look around a country home to tens of millions of non-white people. Then he’d look around soccer boardrooms, and out onto fields, and wonder: “Why doesn’t soccer in America look like America?”The superficial answer is obvious. Participation, in most cases, requires money. Soccer’s diversity problem, at its core, is a socioeconomic problem. And in America, after centuries of racial oppression – of slavery, Jim Crow lawsredliningongoing mass incarceration, and so much more – socioeconomic problems are race problems. In 2017, the median non-Hispanic white household owned $171,700 in net wealth; the median Black household owned $9,567. White America controls soccer, just as it controls so much else.But the full answer is more complex. It’s rooted in a uniquely American youth sports industry built around economic and social capital. The industry fuels a sprawling soccer network that excludes minorities and perpetuates the power of those white men in charge.“This,” Lowery says, “is systemic racism in soccer.”

‘The hidden soccer economy’

Once upon a time, soccer was a working-class sport. It still is in many countries. A century ago, it was in the United States. Early amateur teams sprung out of ethnically diverse urban areas. Semi-pro leagues came and went.In the 1960s and 70s, however, soccer’s tectonic plates began to shift. Universities developed programs. The North American Soccer League formed and wooed foreign stars. Pelé arrived. George Best and Johan Cruyff followed. Mainstream interest in the sport percolated. Demand for youth soccer soared. But there was no infrastructure. No supply to readily meet demand.Elsewhere around the world, supply comes from professional clubs. Most youth soccer systems exist to develop professional players. In the U.S., the NASL wasn’t financially stable enough, so a youth system had to fund itself. The burden fell to parents.“Pay-to-play” clubs proliferated. The American system burgeoned around those who could afford it. It became an unchecked industry that exists less to develop players and more to make money for anybody who can get in on the scheme.“The way the model is right now, the consumer seeks out soccer and buys it,” says Ed Foster-Simeon, CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. And consumers who can afford it, the ones with generational wealth and disposable income, are largely white.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

Cost, first and foremost, is the sturdiest barrier that can make soccer inaccessible. Registration fees at many top youth clubs are four figures. They’re also merely a fraction of the necessary investment. Uniforms, tournaments, equipment, transportation, camps and specialized trainers all comprise what Lowery calls “the hidden soccer economy.” Some parents report paying five figures annually. A 2019 Aspen Institute study found that youth soccer participation costs more on average than youth tackle football participation, and more than twice as much as youth flag football participation. For many Black families, who on average make $26,416 less than non-Hispanic white families, those prices can be prohibitive.“There’s so much untapped potential in these communities. But if it costs $1,500, 2-grand a year for a 12-year-old to play soccer, well that’s just not feasible for a large number of people,” says Brandon Miller, a goalkeeper for the United Soccer League’s Charlotte Independence who co-founded the USL Black Players Alliance.Adds Hugh Roberts, a Charlotte defender and fellow co-founder: “If you don’t have any money, from the start, as a youth, then your opportunities are slim to none.”The increasingly common solution has been scholarships. Many elite clubs now waive fees for underprivileged kids, or fully fund their eldest teams. But “scholarships are not the answer,” Andreassen says. Others agree. Former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati points out that some clubs essentially subsidize scholarships by charging more in younger age groups.“It’s a taxation of a broad base,” he explains.And while it chips away at one barrier, it neglects many others.

Soccer is geographically inaccessible

The parents who could pay lived in suburbs. The industry, therefore, grew in suburbia. And for talented teens like Precious Ogu, that’s problematic. The nearest elite club is 45 minutes away. Practices begin at 8:30 p.m. on weekdays. Her single mother works nights and doesn’t drive. No teammates live nearby.The pipeline isn’t just economically inaccessible. It’s geographically inaccessible as well. Yahoo Sports analyzed the locations of 161 elite youth clubs that comprised U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy. In 2010, the average median household income of the ZIP codes in which those 161 clubs are based was $80,950 – more than $30,000 above the nationwide median at the time, and the equivalent of around $96,400 today. Some of the best American soccer players ever grew up hours away from a club that could offer valuable coaching and access to showcase events. Their parents shuttled them to and fro. But for every parent that could, there are many that can’t. Time is a resource. Schedule flexibility is an offshoot of socioeconomic class. “I think about when I was the president of a [Virginia youth] club in the ‘90s,” Foster-Simeon says. Parents who volunteered were “white-collar workers who could say to their boss, ‘I’m leaving early on Tuesday and Thursday ’cause I’m coaching my kid’s team.’ If you’re an hourly wage worker, you don’t have that kind of flexibility.”For Precious, the only solution is Uber. Open Goal, a non-profit aiming to bring soccer to underserved communities, funds her travels. Many kids without similar support simply can’t play.“These are the invisible barriers that have taken too long for us to recognize and address,” Foster-Simeon says. “There are structural and historical barriers to participation.”They largely affect poor families in inner cities. And poor families in inner cities are disproportionately families of color.Reciprocally, Black people are underrepresented in 132 of those 161 ZIP codes housing Academy clubs. Those who do grow up in suburbs, like USWNT star Crystal Dunn, are often the only Black players on youth teams. Those raised in cities often aren’t able to latch onto the game.“If I had stayed actually in the city,” Dunn said on a recent panel, “there’s a good chance I wouldn’t even be playing this sport.”

Cultural barriers: ‘I felt like I just didn’t fit in’

Precious sometimes returns home from practice after 11 p.m., with homework still to do. She wakes up the next morning before 7 a.m. She still maintains straight-As. And she’s excelling on the soccer pitch. Division I colleges have been in touch. She initially worried she couldn’t compete with the suburban girls, then quickly realized she absolutely could.But along the way, she encountered another type of barrier. On the field, she adapted quickly. Off it, she wondered: “How am I gonna make friends?” Most of her new teammates went to private school. They were nice, but talked about private school things. About lake houses, fancy restaurants.

“I would be scared to approach any of them, or try to start a conversation,” Precious says. “I didn’t really know how. Like, what are we gonna talk about?“At first, I was kind of uncomfortable, because I felt like an outcast in some way. I felt like I just didn’t fit in.”This, to Foster-Simeon, is the “overlooked” puzzle piece. “You can create a great opportunity for a kid in a middle-class, suburban club,” he says. “But if you’ve not spent any time thinking about what that means to that child culturally, coming from a community where they don’t have many resources,” then the child can struggle. They experience microaggressions. They can’t partake in conversations about iPads and exotic vacation spots. Elite clubs, in this sense, can be culturally inaccessible too.

Especially, players of color say, because many white coaches don’t understand this cultural divide. They can’t understand poverty and the mental challenges that accompany it. Roberts, the USL defender, grew up with Black and Latino teammates. He remembers a coach benching a few “because of their attitude.”“But he’s not understanding that my friends are struggling at home, because they’re not getting enough food,” Roberts says. “They’re frustrated with school and stuff. And yes, we take it to the field, but it’s never us disrespecting a coach. But sometimes coaches just don’t understand us – because they’re not us.”So barriers beget more barriers, and keep one another in place. A predominantly white system produced overwhelmingly white leaders. A recent FARE report found that across Major League Soccer, out of 229 head coaches, assistant coaches, majority owners and top club executives, 7.4% are Black; 5% are Latinx; and 87.6% are white. In the National Women’s Soccer League, the corresponding numbers are 0%; 1.1%; and 98.9%. The report’s authors called the findings “alarming.” Black players’ coalitions have formed in MLS and the USL to, among many other things, correct the imbalance.Representation is often valued for its inspirational faculties, and with good reason. Humans gravitate toward role models who look like themselves.“I played basketball [growing up], all my friends played other sports,” Roberts says. “Subconsciously, you don’t even give soccer the attention, because there’s no people who look like you.”But representation is also about diversity of perspectives.“The people that are making the power decisions,” Miller says, “don’t have diverse views, and therefore don’t make diverse decisions.”The people in charge of fixing flawed systems are the very people whom those systems benefit.

What’s being done to address soccer’s inequities

When Lowery and Simon Landau, the Open Goal Project’s founders, first set out to address soccer’s inequities, they attacked from within. They raised money. They covered club fees and arranged transportation. They took kids from underserved communities out into the ’burbs, to the preeminent travel teams, to play for respected coaches and in front of college recruiters. They filled any gaps that arose.But if you mention that strategy to Lowery now, having seen the industry’s underbelly, and having seen all the concealed barriers it presents, he might cut you off.“No! Nooo! Noooo, nooo, nooo,” he says. “It’s so wrong.”Many who’ve confronted these issues, who’ve gone into neglected communities, who’ve analyzed the barriers first-hand, now advocate for a fresh approach. Rather than jam underprivileged kids into the pipeline, their solution is to create a different pipeline. Rather than bring the kids to soccer resources, the solution is to bring soccer resources to them.

It starts on ground floors. Soccer, Foster-Simeon points out, “is a relatively low-cost sport when you pare it back to its basics.” But so often, even some basics aren’t present. An early-2000s NIH study found that 69.6% of Black neighborhoods and 81.4% of Hispanic neighborhoods didn’t have a single recreational facilitySo Foster-Simeon’s U.S. Soccer Foundation decided to build some. They’ve committed to funding 1,000 “mini-pitches,” or inner-city courts that serve as soccer havens. They offer kids an introduction to the game that’s so often elusive.And rather than swoop in or dictate from afar, Foster-Simeon says, “it’s sort of like a collaborative effort.” The Foundation doesn’t solve problems for inner-city kids. It works with people who already know the inner-cities, who intimately understand their challenges. It leverages existing infrastructure and trust. “We identify community-based organizations,” Foster-Simeon says. “And we provide them with the curriculum and training and other supports that they need to be able to offer programming to the kids. [We] give them the tools that they need to create access and opportunity.”Open Goal, meanwhile, brought all its efforts in-house. It launched its own inner-city club, which is completely free for players. It runs its own camps, and clinics, and nutrition programs, and fitness training. The plan requires aggressive fundraising and networking. It may or may not be replicable across the country, at scale. Lowery and Landau feel it’s the only sustainable way forward. “The system has to be there in their communities,” Lowery says of underserved kids. “Just like it’s in everyone else’s community.”Over time, more and more Black and brown players will push through the system, or earn their way in from outside. More and more will attempt to reform it. “I made it all the way to the other side,” says MLS veteran Quincy Amarikwa, a co-founder of the Black Players for Change coalition. “I understand how I was perceived the entire way, I understand how people spoke about me as I went through, I understand why they did the things they did, and how they went about doing it. Because that’s how they maintain the system. So now that I have that understanding, I can now relay the message back to those who may be in the middle of it, who might be going into it, or who actually have the best intentions to address and fix it, and update it, for the betterment of everybody else.”

But widespread reform is a gargantuan task. Barriers are fortified. “The system, thus far, has been monopolized by entities who say that we can only do it one way,” Lowery says. “You can only get to college one way, you can only be a professional one way, and it has to be through the academy system, and you have to do X, Y, Z. That’s all entrenched in the system. It’s systemic racism, right?”Precious understood very little about it when she first trekked out to suburbia for practices a few years ago. The cultural and socioeconomic divides, she remembers, sparked an awakening. She’s realized, in years since, that “where a kid grew up, and their financial situation, can be a huge barrier on their sports career.”But why? Precious wondered. Now a senior, her high school tasked her with finding a topic for her senior project. A research prompt to investigate throughout the year.Hers, she says, will be “about why sports aren’t diverse, and how it affects people of color like me.”

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN SECURES CRUCIAL POINT IN 1-1 DRAW AGAINST SAINT LOUIS FC

By Indy Eleven Communications, 09/23/20, 10:30PM EDT

Neveal Hackshaw’s Second-half Header Keeps Indiana’s Team in Playoff Position

https://www.youtube.com/embed/HInpe4kMe5s #INDvSTL Post-Game Quotes – September 23, 2020

#INDVSTL STATS VIA USLCHAMPIONSHIP.COM MATCH CENTER

An eventful 90 minutes – and then some – saw Indy Eleven eventually end its duel with Saint Louis FC up two men and even in goals via a 1-1 draw at Lucas Oil Stadium. Neveal Hackshaw’s 72nd minute header countered Russell Cicerone’s early second-half score to force a share of the spoils.“I’m happy overall with that performance; the one disappointing moment was losing that goal on the counterattack,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “There were a few things there that we should’ve done better and we just lost a little bit of concentration. I think we deserved to get a little bit more out of it, but it’s an important point.”As a result, ndy Eleven (7W-5L-2D, 23 pts.) kept its grip on second place in Group E, with Saint Louis FC (6W-4L-4D, 22 pts.) remaining right on its heels one point behind. With Louisville City FC (9W-3L-2D, 29 pts.) all but clinching the top spot with tonight’s deadlock, Indy and Saint Louis can now focus solely on claiming the group’s other USL Championship Playoffs spot via favorable results in their final two games over the next 10 days – including next Saturday’s finale in Missouri. Prior to that ultimate showdown, STL will host Louisville this Saturday evening, followed by Indy Eleven welcoming Sporting Kansas City next Wednesday.

With pole position for the coveted second place spot on the line, it was Indy that looked the more likely to claim an early advantage. Following a 4th minute yellow card given to Saint Louis’ Todd Wharton, Carl Haworth’s shot off the restart and another blast from distance by Ayoze 30 seconds later required STL goalkeeper Kyle Morton into tough saves to keep scoreboard clean.  In the 18th minute, forward Tyler Pasher’s centering pass to the six found a streaking Nick Moon, who couldn’t keep his first-touch shot on frame.Indy would collect the better chances throughout the rest of the first 45 minutes, but it was Morton coming up big at his right post on the two most dangerous opportunities in the final five minutes, thwarting near-angle efforts by Cam Lindley and Pasher to ensure the teams heading in the locker room even.After a first half that saw zero shots on target for the visitors, Saint Louis changed that statistic – and the scoreboard – early on a counterattack chance. In the 50th minute, Tyler Blackwood found a cutting Cicerone with space in front of him, and his running strike into the lower-left corner of the net resulted in the Missouri club taking the lead.The continued energy from Saint Louis would prove to be hurtful, however. A challenge from defender Sam Fink in the 61st minute missed the ball completely, his collision with Pasher resulting in a second yellow card on the evening and an ejection that forced Saint Louis to play a man down.   Indy would take advantage soon after. Looking to catch the defense off guard, Haworth played a quick corner to Ayoze, who crossed into traffic at the top of the six the ball. It was there where Hackshaw beat the masses to the punch, a header by the Tobago & Trinidad international finding its way to the right side of goal to equalize, giving him his second goal of the season – both coming against Saint Louis at home.Frustrations would continue rise for the visitors after another subtraction in the 75th minute. This time it was Wharton heading to the locker room early after seeing his second yellow of the night for a challenge from behind on Drew Conner, forcing Saint Louis to play down two men for a frantic finish.Indy Eleven would make a late push in hopes of taking the full three points, but a defensive stand from Saint Louis that pushed past the eight minutes of original added time would be enough to earn a draw for both sides.  Indy Eleven ends its September homestand – and its 2020 home slate – next Wednesday, September 30, when it welcomes Sporting Kansas City II (4W-9L-1D, 13 pts.) to Lucas Oil Stadium for the fourth and final time this season. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff on Fan Appreciation Night are available at indyeleven.com/tickets, and fans who can’t make the match can follow live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.

 USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvSTL

Indy Eleven  1 : 1  Saint Louis FC

Wednesday, September 23, 2020 – 7:00 p.m. ET

Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.

Attendance: 5,664

 2020 USL Championship records

Indy Eleven (7W-5L-2D, 23 pts., 2nd in Group E)

Saint Louis FC (6W-4L-4D, 22 pts., 3rd in Group E)

 Scoring Summary:

STL – Russell Cicerone (Tyler Blackwood) 50’

IND– Neveal Hackshaw (Ayoze) 72’


Disciplinary Summary:

STL – Todd Wharton (yellow card) 4’

STL – Kyle Grieg (yellow card) 45’

STL – Tobi Adewole (yellow card) 45+2’

STL – Sam Fink (yellow card) 45+4

IND – Drew Conner (yellow card) 55’

STL – Sam Fink (second yellow/red card) 61’

IND – Neveal Hackshaw (yellow card) 64’

STL – Todd Wharton (second yellow/red card) 75’

IND – Paddy Barret (yellow card) 85’

IND – Andrew Carleton (yellow card) 89’

 
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Evan Newton; Neveal Hackshaw, Paddy Barrett (captain), Karl Ouimette; Ayoze (Andrew Carleton 88’), Drew Connor (Matt Watson 87’), Tyler Gibson (Ilija Ilic 61’), Carl Haworth; Tyler Pasher, Cam Lindley, Nick Moon (Jeremy Rafanello 79’)

IND substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Mitch Osmond, Conner Antley

Saint Louis FC (4-3-3, L–>R): Kyle Morton; Phanuel Kavita (captain), Sam Fink, Tobi Adewole; Todd Wharton, Guy Abend (Richard Bryan 90+6’), Wal Fall, Paris Gee; Kyle Grieg (Kadeem Dacres 79’), Tyler Blackwood (Daniel Fischer 65’), Russell Cicerone

STL substitutes: John Berner (GK), Mour Samb, Nikiphoros Vlastos, Joaquin R