US Soccer Players https://ussoccerplayers.com The official site of the USMNT Soccer Players with soccer news, schedule, statistics, players, interviews, and exclusive stories. 2020-09-22T18:00:34Z hourly 1 2000-01-01T12:00+00:00 UEFA’s Super Cup https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/uefas-super-cup.html 2020-09-22T18:00:34Z uefa super cup logo detail

By J Hutcherson (Sep 22, 2020) US Soccer Players - It's hardly a surprise that any discussion of the UEFA Super Cup plays down the concept and its seriousness. Since there's a Champions League and Europa League winner, why not play them off against each other at the start of the next European soccer season? Though it might seem like a glorified friendly, there's a logo, a trophy, and an attempt by UEFA to treat the competition as serious business.

Then there's the 2020 version. In the midst of a pandemic and a successful summer of European club soccer, UEFA wants more. Namely, they want the fans back in the stadiums. Thursday's Bayern Munich vs Sevilla game at Puskas Arena will go ahead with 30% of the venue's 67,000 seats available. It's a first step for UEFA, taken a month after the Champions League and Europa League played out in empty stadiums.

England announced this week that they wouldn't be going ahead with limited capacities in some stadiums. The infection rate worked against that plan as its done in areas all over the world. Some Major League Soccer teams can allow fans. Most can't. It's the same situation with the NFL while Major League Baseball plays on without fans and the NBA and the NHL close out their seasons in neutral site bubbles.

Whether or not UEFA is pressing for a normal that can't exist at the moment is the big picture question. European soccer's governing body may be asking it early and in an interesting circumstance. The Hungarian league isn't known for large crowds. This is about traveling support in this new era where travel itself has become something to seriously consider.

It's not just UEFA. Some German states are allowing fans to return. The Netherlands is operating under limited stadium capacities. Again, these are steps toward returning to normal that may or may not work. Whether or not organizers should even be trying is certainly worth asking.

When UEFA announced that they would allow fans to attend the Super Cup, they couched it as a test and a study. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin stressed the obvious in that press release, saying, "we will not take risks with people's safety."

That's now hanging over all of European soccer every time an organization decides to open the doors. Letting fans in locally carries risk. A game that should draw traveling support from other countries multiplies those concerns.

Just like with the restart itself, at some point the business of soccer has no alternative but to try. The response to England pulling back on their plans to allow the return of fans is to focus on smaller clubs dependent on selling tickets. Without that revenue stream, there's no doubt that some will eventually fall into a financial crisis. That's not news, but it's the expectation that their situations might have changed had authorities pressed ahead.

That's the balance looming over not just soccer, but it resonates with something so easily identifiable with crowds. The faux-crowds created by a soundtrack shouldn't fool anybody. The game loses something crucial when it's played in isolation. There's no making that up with screens or cutouts. If anything, all that does is amplify the strangeness of the situation.

What UEFA may get on Thursday is that return to somewhat normal. Fans in attendance making their own noise. Two teams already playing league games that can't risk treating this as a warmup. A clear underdog trying to prove that they belong.

"It's a case of coming up against the best team in the world at the moment," Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui said. "We know that we don't just want to roll over. We have a lot of respect and admiration for this team, but we are also a team who are very proud, ambitious and excited. We fully intend to approach the final with a desire to give a good showing of ourselves. It's not going to be easy but that is what we're obviously hoping for."

Part of what the return to play has accomplished is showing that the game can push forward. It's not the best version, but it counts. Bayern Munich's Champions League win doesn't deserve an explanation any more than its undefeated streak. The team proved over and over that it is playing the best soccer in Europe regardless of circumstance. Hanging eight goals on Schalke to open its Bundesliga schedule was an unnecessary reminder.

"We had a perfect season," Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick said. "We won every game. Sure, it's difficult to defend a trophy, but we accept the challenge and it's one of our aims to get as far as possible in the Champions League; we take one step at a time. This is a great situation and we don't look further than the next match. We are preparing intensively, and we want to win every game."


J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him at jhutcherson@usnstpa.com.

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Logo courtesy of UEFA

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Atlanta United adds a Designated Player https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/atlanta-united-adds-a-designated-player.html 2020-09-22T14:30:51Z action from atlanta united hosting inter miami

Tuesday's soccer news starts with Atlanta United making a designated player move. The club signed midfielder Marcelino Moreno from Atletico Lanus, paying a transfer fee. Atlanta transferred Pity Martinez to Al-Nassr earlier this month and has been without Josef Martinez since the opening game of the season due to injury.

"We're pleased to bring in a player of Marcelino's caliber and look forward to welcoming him to the club," Atlanta technical director Carlos Bocanegra said. "He is a dynamic attacking midfielder who has proven to be a consistent performer in the Argentine Superliga. He has fantastic balance and change of direction ability and is a player who can create on his own or bring others into the game."

United's situation isn't news, but it's worth the quick reminder. Coming off of a poor showing at MLS is Back where they lost all three group stage games 1-0, the club parted ways with coach Frank de Boer. Under interim coach Stephen Glass, they won their first game when MLS restarted in home markets. They haven't won since, losing four out of six games. The club is currently on a three-game losing streak, something made worse by the level of competition.

In theory, even a weak Atlanta United should've piled on the points against Nashville, Orlando, and Inter Miami. Instead, Nashville is probably still wondering how they lost 2-0 at Atlanta on August 22 when they had no issues beating them 4-2 at home on September 12.

With all due respect to what's happening at LAFC, there's a strong argument that no team in MLS has slipped as badly as Atlanta. In a season that isn't doing any team much in the way of favors, they're the ones not able to adjust. What adding a midfielder like Marcelino Moreno does over the rest of the season is an open question. What looks like a component part in an offense still needs attacking players to turn creative passes into goals. The club also announced on Tuesday that one of them, Erick Torres, might not play again this season due to a knee sprain.

Following the club's latest loss, 2-1 at Inter Miami, Glass talked about the reliance on designated players. "We didn't have any of the DP's obviously, I think it's the first time in club history we've done that in a game. It puts you in a battle against a team that has top players. In terms of the work rate, I can't fault the guys. There are certain situations that could have been prevented with a little bit more knowhow. That's something you do get from the top guys. Balancing the playing field is about work rate and doing the things you can control well. Doing it every single time. It's difficult when you don't play with DP's."

Yes, he means Inter Miami when he mentioned that "battle against a team that has top players." Inter is certainly willing to spend, but at best, they're a disjointed team with a couple of recognizable names. Like Atlanta, they're also on the outside looking in at the playoff spots.

One game into phase two of the restart, we don't yet know how many games are left to set the playoffs. The East is in an odd situation with 14 of the 26 clubs. Rather than advancing eight teams, 7th through 10th will play off against each other for the final two slots. 11th-place Inter Miami, 10th-place Atlanta, and 13th-place DC are all a point out of the play-in round, tied on 11 points after 12 games. MLS has yet to make it clear what the rest of the schedule looks like. In other words, no team can take anything as a given other than the games already on the schedule.

Atlanta has done a horrible job since the season resumed prioritizing its schedule. The streak of losses at MLS is Back also counted in MLS, with Atlanta and Inter the only teams exiting that tournament empty handed. Getting any sort of traction in a manageable phase one was somehow too much of an ask for Atlanta. Now, they're in a situation where disappointment is turning into expectation.

Moving to the USMNT, US Soccer confirmed that the team won't play during the October international window. "Both players and staff are disappointed not to be able to get back on the field for the National Team and continue the progress we have made as a group,”USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said in a press statement. "While COVID-19 continues to create challenges for us, we are confident we can find a way forward in the near future that will provide an opportunity to play matches in preparation for the important competitions next year."

SI.com's Jonathan Wilson looks at the return of Gareth Bale to Spurs. The Athletic's Sam Lee asks if anybody is seriously thinking that Manchester City has issues. The Telegraph's Tom Morgan on the bigger picture issues for English clubs that rely on attendance now facing more time without crowds.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

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Good and bad as MLS enters phase two https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/good-and-bad-as-mls-enters-phase-two.html 2020-09-21T18:00:41Z banc of california stadium

By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Sep 21, 2020) US Soccer Players – A month into the restart of the MLS season and some trends are beginning to come into sharper focus. While the pandemic has made this an unusual season for sports across the globe, MLS has been able to persevere in a year notable for marking its 25th season in existence.

MLS has been through tough times before, but nothing like this season. With help from the players, the league has installed a series of safety protocols to keep the coronavirus from spreading. That has allowed for games to take place largely without fans in the seats as teams figure out a way to navigate the late summer, always a crucial juncture on the MLS calendar.

The restart comes in phases with MLS well aware of the risk of travel. The regions for teams have grown, with the Canadian teams now in the United States for phase two.

2020's start-and-stop schedule hasn't been kind to teams and players who expected to do well this season. The league's injury report tells part of the story. The Portland Timbers, who won MLS is Back, have five injured players. Minnesota United has seven, including notables like defender Ike Opara and veteran midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.

Here's a look at three teams that are doing well and three heading in the wrong direction.

Columbus Crew

As Phase 1 of the restart comes to an end, the Crew (8-1-3) are tops in the Eastern Conference and first overall. Columbus, despite an injury to Darlington Nagbe, has done a very good job navigating their schedule. Under coach Caleb Porter, the team has been grinding out results. They could very well be a serious MLS Cup contender thanks largely to striker Gyasi Zardes and its depth though the likes of defender Josh Williams and striker Fanendo Adi.

Outlook: October will be key for the Crew. The race for the top spot in the conference remains tight, and games against Toronto FC will make the difference. Should Nagbe return, the Crew will see its midfield much improved. Still, the ability to put together a team effort is what can win a championship.

Seattle Sounders

No matter how they're doing, never rule out the Sounders. Instead of having to put together a late surge, coach Brian Schmetzer's side is 6-2-3 and one of the most consistent in the Western Conference. Strikers Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz have been explosive over the past few weeks, and that's made a huge difference this summer. Nicolas Lodeiro is also in top form again, another key to Seattle's recent great run of form.

Outlook: Morris, after a stellar year in 2019, is looking like the season's top MVP candidate. If the Sounders can continue to score at its current rate, there could be no one that can stop them this fall.

Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia is legit. We saw that at the MLS is Back Tournament, and its carried over into the regular season. As coach Jim Curtain put it, the Union are "punching above their weight." Aside from being an almost certainty to make the playoffs, Philadelphia has often made up for its inconsistent offense with a tight backline and the incredible abilities of goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Outlook: The best thing going for the Union is its grit and Cinderella-style abilities. This is a hardworking, blue-collar team that can pull off an upset anywhere. Underestimate them at your own risk when games matter most.

At the other end of the table...

Los Angeles FC

Favorites to win MLS Cup at the start of the season, LAFC have largely been a disappointment. This is a team that has the players to win titles even without reigning MLS MVP Carlos Vela lost to a knee injury. In MLS, spending and big-name players don't always matter. It's up to coach Bob Bradley to help Los Angeles rebound at such a critical juncture of the season. Currently in 9th-place, LAFC is fighting for that final playoff spot.

Outlook: Don’t rule LAFC out. The goal at this point is to sneak into the postseason and get hot at the right time. Striker Diego Rossi, currently the league's top scorer, needs to continue bagging goals. Things can switch quickly in MLS. LAFC has time to put together a playoff run, one that could still include Vela.

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls are just 4-6-2 and find themselves in the position of both struggling and having to right the situation following the recent firing of coach Chris Armas. While his dismissal isn't all that surprising, it leaves a team already in a tough position now having to figure out how to somehow salvage the season. Selling off talent the past few years may have finally caught up with RBNY. Their attack has been shambolic, scoring just nine goals in 12 games.

Outlook: The Red Bulls have been here before. The team's futility over the past 25 seasons a major talking point every fall. It may be time to blow it all up and rebuild by giving its promising young players more time and going back on the market to sign a Designated Player, preferably a striker.

Inter Miami CF

An expansion season is tough for any team. Throw in a pandemic, empty stands and scheduling issues and it makes for an even more complicated year. Inter Miami CF can certainly blame 2020 for their woes, but there are other issues here as well. This is a team that likes to be rumored with signing big names and the recent arrival of Gonzalo Higuain proves that point. What this side needs is chemistry and experience together, something that will come with time.

Outlook: This is still MLS where things can change quickly. DC or Atlanta could've just as easily taken this slot. Those three are in a group of teams near the bottom of the Eastern Conference that are still thinking playoffs. Good for all of them since it makes the league better. For Inter, the real challenge is finishing above Nashville. Doing that may mean making the playoffs.


Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.

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Photo by Michael Janosz - ISIPhotos.com

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LAFC and Atlanta lose again, Portland wins big over San Jose https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/lafc-and-atlanta-lose-again-portland-wins-big-over-san-jose.html 2020-09-21T14:30:21Z new england tajon buchanan and NYCFC alexander callens in action

Monday's soccer news starts with another interesting weekend in Major League Soccer. Seattle shut out LAFC 3-0 at home on Friday night. Nicolas Lodeiro converted penalties in the 29th and 33rd minutes with Raul Ruidiaz finishing off the goals in the 82nd minute. Stefan Frei made two saves to keep the clean sheet.

On Saturday, FC Dallas beat Sporting Kansas City 2-0 on the road. Dallas took the lead through Franco Jara goals in the 42nd and 48 minutes. Johnny Russell answered for Sporting with goals in the 53rd and 83rd minutes. Ryan Hollingshead scored Dallas's winner in the 86th. Dallas went a man down in the 90th with a second yellow to Bryan Acosta for unsporting behavior.

New England and NYCFC drew 0-0 at Gillette Stadium. The Revs put seven shots on goal to NYCFC's four.

"Obviously, that's a game that can go either way," New England coach Bruce Arena said. "Both teams had some chances. Obviously, we weren't able to capitalize on ours. We tried to push the game at the end and get a goal. I think we made one or two mistakes that resulted in some counterattacks for New York City FC as well. But I think, overall, this was a much improved performance for our team than I've seen over the last three weeks or so."

Inter Miami won 2-1 at Atlanta United. Juan Agudelo scored for Inter in the 2nd minute. John Gallagher equalized in the 5th with Brek Shea scoring for Inter in the 11th minute.

"I think in the moments that mattered we weren't good enough and unfortunately those moments came early in the game," Atlanta midfielder Jeff Larentoqicz said. "Again, their counterattack, their speed on the break was something we spoke about all week and it still bit us on thefirst goal. The second goal they were just sharper than us and there is really no excuse on that one."

Cincinnati shutout the Red Bulls 1-0 on the road. Haris Medunjanin scored in the 85th with Spencer Richey making two saves to keep the clean sheet.

Columbus kept the clean sheet in a 2-0 home win over Nashville. Gyazi Zardes assisted on Pedro Santos's goal in the 50th minute, scoring three minutes into stoppage time.

DC United and Toronto drew 2-2 at Audi Field. Ola Kamara put DC up in the 5th. Toronto equalized through Alejandro Pozuelo in the 17th and went ahead through an Ayo Akinola goal in the 60th. Griffin Yow equalized for DC in the 88th.

Orlando beat Chicago 4-1 at home. Chris Mueller opened the scoring for Orlando in the 11th minute, assisting on Nani's goal in the 24th. Robert Beric converted a Chicago penalty in the 48th. Junior Urso made it 3-1 Orlando in the 78th with Benji Michel finishing off the goals five minutes into stoppage time.

"Look, it reflects a little bit the whole season," Chicago coach Raphael Wicky said. "We are playing well, we're creating a lot of big, big chances. We are giving up too many, too easy goals again, but it reflects a little bit the whole season. Right now, for whatever reason, those little things go against us."

Houston and Minnesota drew 2-2 at BBVA Stadium. Kevin Molino put United up in the 11th with Robin Lod doubling the lead a minute into first-half stoppage time. Darwin Quintero pulled a goal back for Houston in the 58th with Maynor Figueroa equalizing in the 69th. Minnesota's Jan Gregus saw red in the 88th for violent conduct.

"Overall, I think the team worked hard, created a lot of chances," Houston coach Tab Ramos said. "We were down 2-0 at half, but really, we should of been up. We created a lot of chances in the first half that really should of put us ahead in the game. It was kind of surprising to be down in a game in which, obviously the penalty was won, but we created many other chances to be ahead in the game. So, at halftime I felt there wasn't a lot to change. The guys kept going and you have to give them credit, they did a great job coming back. It is not easy."

Vancouver beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 on the road. David Milinkovic scored for the Whitecaps in the 53rd. Real Salt Lake went a man down in the 63rd when Kyle Beckerman picked up a second yellow for unsporting behavior. Justin Meram equalized in the 81st. Lucas Cavallini put Vancouver up for good in the 84th minute.

Colorado shutout LA 2-0 in Carson. Coloe Bassett opened the scoring in the 40th minute. LA's Julian Araujo saw red in the 75th, picking up a second yellow for unsporting behavior. Jonathan Lewis scored Colorado's winner in the 78th minute.

Portland had no issues with San Jose, winning 6-1 at Earthquakes Stadium. Diego Valeri converted a Timbers' penalty in the 25th with Jeremy Ebobisse doubling the lead in the 27th. San Jose pulled a goal back through Carlos Fierro in the 44th. Valeri scored again in the 57th with Yimmi Chara making it 4-1 in the 70th. Valeri assisted on Julio Cascante's goal in the 85th with Chara assisting on Jaroslaw Niezgoda's goal in the 87th minute.

On Sunday, Philadelphia came back to beat Montreal 4-1 at the Impact's temporary home at Red Bull Arena. Montreal took the lead in the 5th minute when Romell Quioto scored. Quioto saw red in the 16th for violent conduct. Alejandro Bedoya equalized for the Union in the 22nd with Kacper Przybylko putting Philadelphia up for good in first-half stoppage time. Przybylko scored again in the 47th with Anthony Fontana finishing off the goals in the 65th minute.

Moving to the soccer news, The Independent's Melissa Reddy explains what's missing from Chelsea after their home loss to Liverpool. The Guardian's Andy Brassell works through Bayern Munich's 8-0 win over Schalke. AP reports on the Krause Group taking over Parma in Serie A. Inside World Football's Paul Nicholson on what happened at FIFA's Congress.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

Photo by Tim Bouwer - ISIPhotos.com

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McKennie debuts for Juventus, goal for Gooch https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/mckennie-debuts-for-juventus-goal-for-gooch.html 2020-09-20T23:03:51Z weston mckennie juventus debut celebration

The roundup of USMNT players in Europe and Mexico starts in Serie A. Weston McKennie made his league debut for his new club Juventus, shutting out Sampdoria 3-0 at home. Dejan Kulusevski scored in the 13th minute with Leonardo Bonucci doubling the lea in the 78th. Cristiano Ronaldo finished off the goals in the 88th.

"McKennie arrived with a few more days of preparation and did well," Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo said. "He made a mistake in the setting phase but it was the first and you can forgive."

Lynden Gooch scored in Sunderland's 2-0 win at Oxford United in League One. Luke O'Nien opened the scoring in the 47th. Gooch doubled the lead in the 82nd. In the Championship, Geoff Cameron's QPR lost 3-2 at Coventry City. Lyndon Dykes converted a 41st minute penalty to put QPR up. Coventry equalized in the 44th and went ahead in the 50th. Yoann Barbet equalized for QPR in the 75th. Coventry scored in the 84th.

Josh Sargent's Werder Bremen lost 4-1 at home to Hertha BSC in the Bundesliga. Down 3-0 from goals in the 42nd, first-half stoppage time, and the 62nd, Davie Selke scored for Werder in the 69th. Hertha added a goal in the 90th minute.

Timmy Chandler subbed on in the 88th minute of Eintracht's 1-1 home draw with Arminia Bielefeld. Falling behind in the 51st minute, Andre Silva equalized for Eintracht in the 62nd. Tyler Adams's RB Leipzig beat Mainz 3-1 at home. Emil Forsberg converted a 17th minute penalty with Yussuf Poulsen doubling the Leipzig lead in the 21st. Mainz pulled a goal back in the 48th. RB Leipzig went up for good in the 51st with a goal from Amadou Haidara. John Brooks's Wolfsburg drew 0-0 with Bayer Leverkusen at home.

Alfredo Morales subbed out in the 62nd minute of Fortuna Dusseldorf's 2-1 loss at Hamburg in the 2.Bundesliga. Trailing from goals in first-half stoppage time and the 60th minute, Fortuna went a man down with a red card to Nana Opoku Ampomah in the 90th minute. Matthias Zimmermann scored for Fortuna three minutes into stoppage time. Julian Green's Furth drew 1-1 at home with Osnabruck. Paul Seguin put Furth up in the 15th minute with Osnabruck equalizing in the 26th.

Reggie Cannon's Boavista drew 3-3 at Nacional. Gustavo Sauer put Boavista up in the 19th minute with Nacional equalizing in the 28th. Trailing from a 36th minute goal, Sauer equalized in the 60th. Nacional went up for good two minutes into stoppage time. Erik Palmer-Brown's Austria Wien beat Reid 2-1 in the Austrian Bundesliga. Christoph Monschein converted penalties in the 37th and 65th minutes. Reid pulled a goal back in the 89th. Timothy Weah subbed on in the 78th minute of Lille's 1-1 draw at Marseille in Ligue 1. Luiz Araujo scored for Lille in the 47th with Marseille equalizing in the 85th minute.

In the Allsvenskan, Aron Johannsson's Hammarby lost 3-0 at AIK to goals in the 27th, 37th, and 77th minutes. Kenny Saief subbed out in the 75th minute of Lechia Gdansk's 4-2 home win over Stal. Flavio Piaxao opened the scoring in the 4th minute with Stal equalizing in the 23rd and going ahead in the 45th. Conrado Holz equalized for Lechia two minutes into stoppage time. Paixao converted a 73rd minute penalty with Michal Nalepa scoring in the 88th.

Sergino Dest subbed on in the 79th minute of Ajax's 3-0 home win over Waalwijk. Dusan Tadic opened the scoring in the 10th minute with Zakaria Labyad doubling the lead in the 34th. Ajax went a man up in the 68th, with Lisandro Martinez scoring in the 73rd. Luca De La Torre subbed out in the 58th minute of Heracles's 4-0 loss at Willem II.

Tyler Boyd's Besiktas drew 1-1 at home with Antalyaspor in the Super Liga. Cyle Larin scored for Besiktas in the 33rd minute with Antalyaspor equalizing in the 85th. Eric Lichaj subbed on in the 61st minute of Fatih Karagumruk's 2-2 draw at Gaziantep. Ervin Zukanovic put Fati Karagumruk up in the 26th. Gaziantep equalized in the 53rd and went up a goal in the 59th. Mevlut Erdinc equalized for Fatih Karagumruk five minutes into stoppage time.

Shaq Moore's Tenerife lost 2-0 at Alcorcon in the Segunda Division. Alcorcon scored in the 74th and 84th minutes. Mix Diskerud's Helsingborg beat Varbergs 3-1 away on Monday. Trailing from the 12th minute, Alex Andersson equalized in the 41st with Anthony can der Hurk converting a penalty in first-half stoppage time. Rasmus Jonsson finished off the Helsingborg goals in the 81st minute. Diskerud saw yellow in the 63rd.

Did Not Play: Bobby Wood (Hamburg 2 - Fortuna Dusseldorf 1), Terrence Boyd (Hallescher 2 - Magdeburg 0), Christian Pulisic and Matt Miazga (Chelsea 0 - Liverpool 2), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United 0 - Brighton 3), Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson (Fulham 3 - Leeds 4), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Spurs 5 - Southampton 2), Duane Holmes (Derby County 1 - Luton Town 2), Matthew Olosunde (Rotherham United 0 - Millwall 1), Romain Gall (Stabaek 0 - Odd 2), Luis Gil (Viktoria Zizkov 0 - Hradec Kralove 2), Jonathan Amon (Nordsjaelland 1 - OB 1), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge 6 - Zulte Waregem 0), Ventura Alvarado (Necaxa 0 - Puebla 1), Jose Torres (Puebla 1 - Necaxa 0)

Photo by Alberto Gandolfo - PAcific Press via ZUMA Wire - ISIPhotos.com

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MLS teams once again play against their schedules https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/mls-teams-once-again-play-against-their-schedules.html 2020-09-18T18:00:30Z Red Bull Arena dusk

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 16, 2020) US Soccer Players - Major League Soccer in 2020 is what you get when you take a league built to ensure parity and throw the logistical nightmare of an international pandemic on top of it. Add in rampant wildfires and the requisite air quality issues they bring. The recent returns for the top professional soccer competition in the United States and Canada might as well be random noise.

We've chronicled the uncertainty of lineups from game-to-game during this portion of the league's revised season. With match days coming three-to-a-week, coaches are reaching down their benches like never before. The crush of matches and the difficulty of away trips exacerbated by same-day travel makes it tough for a club with a talent advantage to leverage it every time it steps on the field.

It's easy to forget about the context as we process the scores and consider team performances. Match results tend to happen in a vacuum of the mind, with our analysis turning on preconceived notions, home-field advantage, injuries, and a host of other factors.

There are two ways to handle just how strange this year is. Ignore variables and forge ahead, leaving it up to others to contextualize what's happening, or simply throw up the proverbial hands and stop trying. The arguments for why it's nearly impossible to handicap the rest of the season are myriad. Nothing is certain in the world of the pandemic, including which MLS teams are actually good. So why bother?

We know that sports are as much about the time between the games as they are about the game themselves. Each season is a story, told chapter by chapter. Without the bicker, banter, and business of the intervening days between matches, the whole thing loses its intrigue.

If we're going to make collective allowances for the strange season unfolding before us, it's at least helpful that every club is dealing with the same difficult conditions. Every club is playing in front of no or few fans. Every club must travel to away matches the day of the game. Every team has to face the same opponent repeatedly. That makes it easier to treat the season as "fair" and, therefore, legitimate.

The legitimacy of the 2020 season remains in question, even as we avoid asking. New developments, ones that upend the "fairness" of the campaign, further threaten the validity of Major League Soccer's efforts to play the schedule.

Last week, the league announced "Phase 2" of its regular season schedule. Rather, MLS announced "phase one" of "Phase 2," as it was only able to plan three matches for each of its 26 members teams. The expectation ahead of the news release was that MLS would provide a revised schedule for 12 regular season games for each team, bringing up the total for the season to a respectable 28.

What we got instead was a tacit admission that the COVID-19 pandemic is a debilitating problem for a soccer league that plays across an international border. While travel restrictions in the United States are relatively modest and staying within a manageable geographic region prevents most issues, moving teams in and out of Canada is still complicated. The home country of three MLS teams requires a 14-day quarantine period when entering, regardless of any testing.

For Phase 1, MLS chose to isolate Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact, and the Vancouver Whitecaps and schedule them to a three-team rotation of games. Toronto has faced both of its Canadian rivals three times. Despite the fact that the Reds sit in 2nd-place in the Eastern Conference behind Columbus, it's difficult to know how good they actually are. Neither Montreal, 5th in the East, nor Vancouver, 11th in the West, look like championship contenders.

Because of the pressing need to get the Canadian clubs games against other teams, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver will play home games in the United States. After visits to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles to face LAFC, the Whitecaps will head to Portland to be the home team in a game against the Timbers.

Montreal will actually start its three-game US swing as the nominal home side in a game against the Union at Red Bull Arena. The Impact will then play two road games against the Revolution in New England and the Red Bulls also at Red Bull Arena.

Toronto is the only team out of the Canadian trio that won't play a home game in another MLS team's venue. The Reds will visit DC United and NYCFC (a club playing its home matches at Red Bull Arena) before hosting the Columbus Crew at Rentschler Field in West Hartford, Connecticut.

By limiting this released portion of the schedule to three games, the league is kicking the can down the road. They're hoping that the restrictions on travel will ease and teams will be able to cross the border. If there is no resolution on that front, MLS may have to keep the Canadian teams in the US and add more games in alternate venues.

Without delving too far into the world of epidemiology, a quick resolution to the travel issues seems doubtful. The clock is ticking. Though Toronto president Bill Manning made some hopeful comments about the club's efforts to work with the government of Canada on a solution, nothing to this point indicates that the government is likely to provide special dispensation for pro sports teams.

This all brings us back to the legitimacy of the season. It's possible, perhaps even probable, that one or more of the Canadian teams will miss the playoffs. Even if they do get into the expanded field, their final position in the table is bound to be affected by the ad hoc 2020 schedule.

Those things that happen in the normal course of a season, poor form, injuries, low attendance, are accepted parts of the game. If a team fails because of them, only bad luck or their own mistakes are to blame.

That's not how 2020 feels at all. The alternative to playing games under unfair conditions is to not play games at all. That reality that seems worse than the one we're living. As Phase 2 begins and the field tilts decidedly against a portion of the league, it's worth asking. When all of this is over, how will we feel about what just happened?


Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: matchfitusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.

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Preview: 2020-21 Bundesliga season https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/preview-2020-21-bundesliga-season.html 2020-09-18T14:30:41Z bundesliga logo

Friday's soccer news starts with the return of the Bundesliga, the first of Europe's leagues to resume and finish last season. With Germany's topflight leading the way, Bundesliga clubs showed it was possible to conduct a season in the strange world of the pandemic. Proximity undoubtedly helped, making it possible for four of Europe's five biggest leagues to complete their schedules.

Now, the Bundesliga and Italy's Serie A are the last to return to the new abnormal for 2020-21 and with the same pressure. Get the games in safely. Added to that is the push to allow limited fans into stadiums, something that's already happening in some parts of the country courtesy of last week's opening round of the DFB Pokal. How Germany navigates these issues will once again help set the tone across Europe.

On the field, it's the same story. Bayern Munich opens the season against Schalke with the same basic understanding of how things work in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich wins. Every game since February with no clear signs that their run of form is close to ending. Somewhere behind them is Borussia Dortmund, the second-best team in Germany in an era where that doesn't mean enough.

Dortmund may have the best emerging offense in Europe, much less the Bundesliga. Keeping it together is the issue. That still might not be enough to pass Bayern or factor in Europe. That's the strength for the newly minted champions of Europe. This is Bayern's game until they start dropping points.

Tyler Adams's RB Leipzig is also in the conversation at the top of the Bundesliga table. Their 3rd-place finish and run to the Champions League semifinals spoke to the quality of that team. Though there's the noticeable gap between Leipzig and Bayern, only three points separated them from Borussia Dortmund.

John Brooks's Wolfsburg finished 7th, taking the last European spot. John Brooks wasn't in the squad for Wolfsburg's 4-0 win at FK Kukesi in the second round of Europa League qualifying. Wout Weghorst opened the scoring in the 21st minute with Maxence Lacroix making it 2-0 in the 33rd. Weghorst scored again in the 74th with Admir Mehmedi finishing off the goals in the 89th minute.

Timmy Chandler's Eintracht finished 9th, pushing up the table and into the conversation for that final European spot. It didn't work out, but Eintracht is a team that understands how to stay in position to matter. Their -1 goal difference last season needs work. They brought in Andre Silva from AC Milan to try to address that scoring issue.

Josh Sargent has gotten plenty of support from his coach at Werder Bremen. Florian Kohfeldt's opinion hasn't changed, saying earlier this month, "right now, I can't imagine a starting XI that doesn't include Josh Sargent." That's what any player wants to hear as Sargent tries to help the club climb out of relegation danger.

Also in the Europa League qualifiers, Cameron Carter-Vickers was on the bench for Spurs in their 2-1 win at Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Trailing from a 71st minute goal, Spurs went up two men in the 78th and 79th minutes. Harry Kane equalized from the penalty spot in the 80th with Tanguy Ndombele scoring in the 85th minute.

"I have to admit, everyone on their side in the stadium had a moment where they really dreamed, and we had a moment we felt a nightmare could arrive," Spurs manager Jose Mourinho said. "I knew that the game would be tricky, and, as I was saying at half-time, the first half was not bad at all. I couldn't complain much with the players, just asking them for a bit more intensity."

ESPN previews the 2020-21 Bundesliga season with the network taking over the wrights and showing games on the ESPN+ streaming service. The Guardian previews the second week of the Premier League season. The Telegraph's Tom Morgan asks about the future of big crowds for English sports. Inside World Football's Samindra Kunti on the financial situation at Juventus. The NY Times' Tariq Panja updates the political situation at Barcelona.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

Photo by Imago via ZUMA Press - ISIPhotos.com

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Frank de Boer helps MLS nudge a bit closer to the global soccer mainstream https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/frank-de-boer-helps-mls-nudge-a-bit-closer-to-the-global-soccer-mainstream.html 2020-09-17T21:00:09Z atlanta united coach frank de boer

By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 17, 2020) US Soccer Players - Sometimes we learn more from the relationships that don't end well than the ones that do. So it may prove for Frank de Boer and MLS.

In July, de Boer became the league's second coaching casualty of the year, parting company with Atlanta United after going winless in a three-and-out campaign at the MLS is Back Tournament. Despite the Five Stripes winning the US Open Cup and Campeones Cup last season, their increasingly plodding performances eventually fell so far short of the lofty expectations they'd set for themselves in their first two seasons that de Boer ran out of time.

The former FC Barcelona and Ajax star had arrived in Georgia in the wake of short and ill-fated stints in charge of Inter Milan and Crystal Palace. So leaving MLS in suboptimal fashion would seem to be another red mark on his coaching resume. As it turns out, reports this week suggest something quite the opposite.

De Boer is said to be well into the process of negotiations with the Dutch federation to take over the Netherlands national team following Ronald Koeman's departure for Barcelona. He could take the wheel as soon as next month's friendly against Mexico. Should that happen, he'd face another former Atlanta boss, Tata Martino, who nimbly leveraged his MLS stint into one of the biggest jobs on this continent.

On one level, it's a logical linkup. De Boer starred for his country over a decade during his playing days, earning more than 100 caps and featuring in two World Cups and three European Championships. He served as an assistant coach there under Bert van Marwijk. With 2022 World Cup qualifying looming, albeit on an already-delayed timeline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federation doesn't have a ton of time to peruse its options.

From another angle, it's startling to see such an immediate upward move for a coach who seemed to struggle in MLS more often than not, especially compared to his predecessor Martino. Taking over a run-and-gun team fresh off an MLS Cup championship run, de Boer cut against Atlanta's established ethos. His Atlanta sides often used possession as a defensive shield rather than a weapon for attacking. He unsettled the locker room with a markedly different management style.

Still, de Boer left with an overall record of 31-19-5. The awkward marriage lasted long enough to lift some hardware. Even if the Dutch job doesn't line up for him, the simple fact of his strong candidacy suggests his reputation hasn't been excessively dinged by his mixed bag in MLS. As risky as it can be to extrapolate bigger conclusions off anecdotes like this, it could be that the stigma the league carries in some circles abroad is fading.

For most of our living memory, soccer in North America has carried a frontier connotation to those overseas, and not without reason. The wild and crazy stories of the old NASL days live long in the collective memory. That mentality tends to amplify MLS's differences from its counterparts elsewhere.

Ruud Gullit was another Netherlands legend who couldn't quite master MLS, helming the LA Galaxy for part of the 2008 season. That was perhaps the lowest ebb of David Beckham's time in the league. After his departure he said "it was too much of a clash between my way of being used to working and the rules of the MLS." Something similar has struck many other luminary coaches from abroad over the decades. Club executives came away with the conclusion that risk of culture clash was just too high to trust their vacancies with outsiders.

At some point, MLS's quirks grew more compelling and less ludicrous in the eyes of at least some percentage of curious onlookers. Nowadays, even the toughest and least glamorous jobs in MLS are likely to draw interest from names of note.

Matias Almeyda was convinced to try his hand at a tricky project in San Jose. Raphael Wicky left a solid U-17 national team gig at US Soccer to move across town to the Chicago Fire. Diego Alonso made the Inter Miami experiment his next destination after leading Monterrey, possibly the best-run club in Liga MX. Thierry Henry picked Montreal, perennially the hottest seat in MLS, as the spot to rebuild after a bruising stint at Monaco.

Even if FC Cincinnati could call on Jaap Stam's existing relationship with general manager Gerard Nijkamp when they were searching for their next manager, Stam arrived with seemingly genuine interest and excitement.

"You see a lot of games that are very open, in terms of play," the distinguished Dutch international said of his new league as he got an up-close introduction at MLS is Back, sounding almost like a soccer anthropologist. "Teams want to go forward as quickly as they can, so taking a lot of risk, as well. That makes the game very interesting because there's a lot of space, so it goes up and down the pitch. Certain teams are very structured in their way of playing and what they want to achieve.… I've compared it a couple of times to the (English) Championship as well. There's a lot of intensity in games and enthusiasm with teams wanting to go forward some, while some teams are playing quite direct. It's interesting to see the level of the teams and individual qualities of the other players as well."

Top-level coaches are nomads by nature. Many will consider going just about anywhere on earth where there's a team to coach and a decent paycheck to bank. It's probably not a complete coincidence that more of them are touching down in MLS at a time of increased spending across the board. Nor should they automatically be assumed superior to homegrown options.

Still, it's encouraging for the league to see a mostly beneficial inflow of human capital in this department. Even a single season under an adept coach with global credibility can hold pivotal lessons for domestic players aspiring to the game's highest echelons, whether that year's team finds a happy ending or not.


Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:cboehm@thesoccerwire.com. Follow him on Twitter at:http://twitter.com/cboehm.

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MLS wins for Dallas and Vancouver https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/mls-wins-for-dallas-and-vancouver.html 2020-09-17T14:30:21Z whitecaps players celebrating a goal against Montreal

Thursday's soccer news starts with the MLS roundup. FC Dallas beat Colorado 4-1 at home. Santiago Mosquera opened the scoring in the 41st minute with Frano Jara doubling the lead in the 49th. Mosquera made it 3-0 in the 57th. Andre Shinyashiki pulled a goal back for Colorado in the 63rd, but it was Mosquera again finishing off his hat-trick in the 78th minute.

"That was a pretty disappointing result for us considering we felt like we had pretty good control early in the game," Rapids coach Robin Fraser said. "Couple of half chances, couple of decent chances. We're certainly not pleased to have that much control of a game and walk away with a 4-1 deficit."

San Jose and Portland split the points at Earthquakes Stadium, drawing 1-1. Yimmi Chara put the Timbers up in the 33rd minute with Valeri Qazaishvili equalizing in the 76th.

"I believe the players adapted well to our system tonight on the field," Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda said. "I will say again, when you have time to train, you can practice in many areas of a game plan. But when you cannot train, you can't. The interpretation from the players has been really important, their concentration, and execution because most of the planning is done in drawing. They haven't really trained. But in these last two games, we really have had resistance, love for the game, and we have to keep going."

Vancouver beat Montreal 3-1 at home. The Impact played a man down after a 37th minute red card to Rudy Camacho for violent conduct. Fredy Montero converted a 41st minute Vancouver penalty and had the second assist on Cristian Dajome's goal in the 44th. Romell Quioto scored for Montreal in the 70th. Montero scored his second goal of the game in the 78th minute.

"Working together with the staff and the players on recognizing every day what needs to be better," Vancouver coach Marc dos Santos said in a response to a question about what is changing with the club. "It's a mix of everything. Then there were some players that have been answering very well in training."

In England's League Cup, Antonee Robinson's Fulham advanced 1-0 at Ipswich Town. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the game's only goal in the 38th minute with Alphonse Aeola keeping the clean sheet. Tim Ream wasn't in the squad for Fulham.

"I was delighted with the two boys to be fair,” Fulham coach Scott Parker said. “Antonee Robinson was attack minded, same with Kenny Tete. Both were fantastic today and gave us a real purpose about us by attacking with speed and putting in good deliveries. The goal came from that, so overall I’m very pleased."

Aron Johannsson's Hammarby exited the second round of Europa League qualifying, losing 3-0 at home to Lech Poznan. Trailing from the 55th, Hammarby went a man down with a red card to Jeppe Andersen in the 63rd minute. Lech Poznan added goals in the 89th minute and stoppage time.

The Canadian Press's Neil Davidson with the Canadian MLS teams relocating to the US for the next stage of the schedule. Sport Business's Bob Williams with how ESPN is going to cover the Bundesliga this season after taking over the broadcast rights.

SI.com's Jonathan Wilson highlights the situation with Spurs and West Ham to make a point about early season pressure in the Premier League. The Athletic's Daniel Taylor and Dermot Corrigan look at Pep Guardiola staying longer with Manchester City than any of his previous stops. The Telegraph's Sam Wallace asks about Dele Alli's career path.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

Photo by Bob Frid - Vancouver Whitecaps

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Playing with star power in MLS https://ussoccerplayers.com/2020/09/playing-with-star-power-in-mls.html 2020-09-16T20:00:01Z chicharito hernandez la galaxy

By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Sep 16, 2020) US Soccer Players - The LA Galaxy likes to remind everyone in Southern California that the team has been around since 1996. The club's "Since '96" moniker was a shot at Los Angeles FC, who joined MLS in the 2018 season and has since shaken up the professional soccer landscape in Southern California. That "Since '96" slogan carries more weight than just a not-so-subtle swipe at LAFC, and perhaps not something the club intended.

Since 1996, things have not changed with the LA Galaxy. From the moment Major League Soccer was born, the club decided to go after star power. Even if it was just a slightly clever attempt at repurposing Cosmos, the Galaxy name itself implies that it is something filled with stars. It's worked enough to understand why it's so hard for the Galaxy to change.

Star power alone is no longer a necessary element for any MLS team to succeed on itself. A component, sure, but not likely the primary driver. Spending big money on name players is the Galaxy template, but it's been tweaked multiple times since it last worked for them.

In today's MLS, the ever-increasing high salaries must first go toward players who will make a difference instead of trying to lure the biggest name. More than a few clubs have crashed into that distinction.

For the Galaxy, their season turning from disappointment to surprise hinges on star power. After a miserable showing in Orlando, the club has flipped the script and is unbeaten in the five matches since. All but 33 of those minutes have been without its prized offseason acquisition on the field.

Chicharito Hernandez is the latest example of the Galaxy leaning on their template for success in MLS. Buy stars and hope that the team gels around them. That's grown more difficult alongside the league's continued expansion.

Hernandez hurt his calf in the second match of the Orlando tournament and missed the first four post-tournament games. Counting the final group-stage match the Galaxy played in Orlando, the Galaxy is 4-0-2 without Hernandez in the starting lineup, and 0-3-1 with him as a starter.

Given the oddity that is this season, that may or may not have much to do with Hernandez as a player. He was never going to out-Zlatan Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the Galaxy. No one paying attention would consider him a direct replacement. Instead, he was the star power part to potentially fix the whole. The Galaxy now has a data set suggesting they had other, cheaper options.

The Galaxy cannot get out of its way in this regard. The club has thrown money at name players since 1996. That thinking nowadays is more liability than smart business.

Ibrahimovic himself fell in that category. The club threw millions his way to bring him to the league and keep him here. Ibrahimovic is a jaw-dropping talent and makes insane highlight-reel moments seem common. He was a talent that crossed over from soccer to the general sports landscape. That kept the Galaxy somewhat relevant in Los Angeles. However, in two seasons with the team, the Galaxy made the playoffs once, won one match, and lost the other.

Enter Hernandez, without exception, one of the most talented players in Concacaf and eager to try something new. That something new was, of course, MLS. More specifically, it was the Galaxy. Over the league's 25 seasons, it's almost always the Galaxy.

Hernandez is a megastar in Mexico and, because of his success with Manchester United, has enough name recognition to fit in with Los Angeles's sports celebrities. Before everything changed, Hernandez was a regular at Los Angeles Lakers games and rubbed elbows with the greatest of them in LA. That's the Galaxy way.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy started the season slow. That's the polite way of looking at a two-game run where they scored one goal and lost their home opener. Once play resumed, Hernandez's one game at MLS is Back spoke to larger organizational issues. Hernandez missed a penalty and another opportunity in front of goal. He wasn't the only one on that field looking lost for the Galaxy.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the Galaxy shut out and shut down LAFC 2-0 at Banc of California Stadium. The team played the way the Galaxy used to play under Bruce Arena. Tough and gritty defending, inspired moments in front of goal, and physical play when needed. That hasn't changed since.

Cristian Pavon is doing the scoring and the distribution with three goals and three assists in the last five games. Overall he has scored six times in 2020. Pavon makes incredible plays but also makes players around him better, part of that overall improvement.

We don't know how Hernandez may fit into this. Subbing on for the last 33 minutes of Sunday's scoreless draw with San Jose isn't enough to go on. The real test will happen on Saturday when the Galaxy plays at Colorado.

If Hernandez can poach goals in front of the net and make runs to get on the end of crosses, the Galaxy improves on what they've already built. It's the same question mark that loomed over the club back in February. Star power only really works when a team figures out how to use it on the field.


Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.

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