Seattle Crash Out of CCL to Chivas- Club America Also Advance
Seattle Crash Out of CCL to Chivas- Club America Also Advance avatar

With a chance to join the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC in the Concacaf Champions League semifinals the Seattle Sounders came up small Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss to Chivas in Guadalajara.

Seattle were minus their playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

The Sounders came into this second leg with a 1-0 lead but minus playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro. The bad news continued for Seattle when striker Will Bruin lasted just 8 minutes before he was sidelined with an injury. Center back Chad Marshall was then felled in the 35th minute following a clash of heads, forcing the Seattle captain out of the match with a with a badly swollen eye.

Seattle managed to make it to the break level at 0-0 on the evening and hanging on to that slim 1-0 aggregate lead but a pair of Chivas goals five minutes apart were as inevitable as they were deadly to the Sounders hopes.

First Oswaldo Alanís beat Stefan Frei with an impeccably placed free kick in the 50th and when Javier López added a second goal just five minutes later there seemed to be no way back for a Sounders side that was being badly outplayed by the home team.

Stefan Frei had a frustrating evening. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

José de Jesús Godínez made Seattle’s exit from the CCL all but official with a third Chivas goal in the 80th minute. In the evening’s other quarterfinal match Mexico’s Club America travel to Panama City with a 4-0 lead and had little trouble with Tauro, advancing with a 7-1 aggregate score after last night’s 3-1 victory.

It was quite a let down for MLS fans one night after the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC had flown the league’s flag proudly in securing Concacaf Champions League semifinals berths.

New York earned its spot by completing a two-game sweep of Club Tijuana, adding Tuesday’s 3-1 home win to a 2-0 road victory. TFC opted for a slightly more dramatic route versus Tigres UNAL, barely hanging on to lose 3-2 on the night in Monterrey, to draw 4-4 overall and advance to the semifinals thanks to the away goals rule.

The Reds got on the board first through an own goal in the 64th minute but that the lead would last just five minutes when it was erased by Tigres’ Chilean international Eduardo Vargas.

Sebastian Giovinco answered with yet another free kick goal to boost the visitor’s hopes. But Tigres were not done yet, adding goals from French international Andre-Pierre Gignac in the 84th minute and then in added time from the penalty spot.

Toronto managed to hang on to join the Red Bulls in the CCL semifinal where they will face Club America. New York takes on Chivas Guadalajara with both opening games taking place on April 3rd in Guadalajara and Toronto with the reverse fixture being held on April 10th.

The final is also played on a two-leg basis, beginning on April 17 and wrapping up on April 24th.

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Youngster Adams and Vet Wright-Phillips Star as N.Y. Red Bulls Advance to CCL Semifinal
Youngster Adams and Vet Wright-Phillips Star as N.Y. Red Bulls Advance to CCL Semifinal avatar

Harrison N.J. – It was late Tuesday night in the depths of Red Bull Arena where the New York Red Bulls had defeated Club Tijuana 3-1 on the night and 5-1 overall to advance to the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions League for the first time.

Adams put in a mature performance.  (ISI Photos Howard C. Smith)

The coaches from both clubs had spoken to the press and with the cold night drawing to a close, media members were crammed into the hallway outside the Red Bulls locker room, separated by the stadium version of a velvet rope from New York Red Bulls all-time leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips. BWP had sparked the home team to victory with three assists on the night, after netting twice in the first leg but now the talk turned to Tyler Adams.

Adams, a 19-year-old midfielder who has already made his full USMNT debut, scored the Red Bulls first goal of the night, the equalizer that sparked the Red Bulls back to life after Tijuana had threatened to run his team off the pitch in the opening half hour.

Wright-Phillips had made that goal happen, picking up the second assist when he led a slow motion, full field counter attack before teeing up Michael Murillo, who laid on the final ball to the indefatigable Adams.

Wright-Phillips talking to the media. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Wright-Phillips was asked about Adams and his impact on the game. “Credit to Tyler, he plays like a man,” Wright-Phillips noted, adding that he hasn’t been surprised by the teenager’s personality. “Not now,” said BWP. “The first training session he had had it, ever since then he hasn’t looked back. He’s not afraid to tell someone, even the coach, or me, or Luis (Robles) what he thinks and he doesn’t just talk, he’s out there pulling his weight too. He’s a big player for us.”

In a post-game soliloquy, Marsch had heaped praise on the Wappingers Falls, New York native. “A couple of guys, you could see were grabbing the team by the scruff of the neck a little bit and saying – All right, let’s keep moving- and one of the things that’s always a source of pride is when that guy is Tyler.”

The coach said of Adams that “his fearlessness and his way of going after games and of being up for big moments is something that makes our team good.”

When I spoke to Adams in late February at the club’s Media Day at Red Bull Arena the “fearlessness” that Marsch spoke of was on display when I asked Adams if he was ok with being tagged as the poster boy of the Play your kids movement.

Adams never flinched. “Yeah, I would say so. Of course, it’s important, giving the young kids an opportunity, one way or another will prove what they’re capable of.” “I think that for me,” Adams said then, “it came at a young age. I think that Jesse put some big goals in front of me and I was able to reach them.” “This year I’m looking to exceed those goals,” the ambitious youngster said.

So, for Adams the role model, em role, is a comfortable fit. “If you want to consider me the poster boy of having young kids play, I think that it’s definitely an influential role for a lot of young guys that you know, there’s inspiration. There’s guys that are doing it. There’s guys that were even before me, like Kellyn Acosta, who was playing at such a young age.”

But back to Tuesday night and Bradley Wright-Phillips who was asked if he had ever seen a young player with that attitude. In England, perhaps?

Wright-Phillips compared Adams to a young Gareth Bale. (ISI Photos/Kelley L. Cox)

Wright-Phillips thought for a moment before answering, “Gareth Bale.” “I saw a similar attitude,” BWP said of his former teammate at Southampton before catching himself. “Don’t get me wrong,” the veteran striker warned the press stragglers, “I know you guys like to twist things,” he said to a chorus of laughter. “I’m not saying they’re the same player, or that he’s going to have the same career as him but they both have a mentality where they know what they’re good at and you know, they’re not afraid when they step out on the field.”

Then BWP was off, but not before the night ended with one last moment of levity as Wright-Phillips turned back to jokingly admonish the media types when he heard one wit comment, “we have our headline now.”

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MLS and Liga MX Announce Historic Partnership Featuring Annual Showdown Between League Champions
MLS and Liga MX Announce Historic Partnership Featuring Annual Showdown Between League Champions avatar

New York, N.Y. – “The Super Bowl of football, or soccer, in North America.” That is how Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla described the just announced Campeones Cup, the annual showdown between the MLS Cup winners and the champions of Liga MX.

The Cup is just one part of an agreement between Major League Soccer and Liga MX which was announced today by the two leagues and further discussed at a media roundtable at MLS headquarters in Manhattan that featured Bonilla and his MLS counterpart Commissioner Don Garber.

Speaking of this new deal between the rival leagues, Garber admitted that, “clearly this is an extension of the World Cup bid (2026).” “Both of us,” Garber explained, “are involved in that. We both are very focused on trying to bring the World Cup here to the U.S. Canada, and Mexico,” Garber said, noting that “the three (Federation) Presidents are now leading that effort.”

Another compelling part of this new arrangement will be an All-Star Game pitting the best players in the two leagues against each other in what Bonilla said will be the rare All-Star Game featuring a real “rivalry.” “We’re going to fight as if it is the World Cup because we want to win,” the Liga MX President said.

Also included in the deal is the exchange of ideas and best practices between the leagues with the two leaders saying that the leagues can learn from each other.

Bonilla expressed admiration for the “game day experience,” in MLS, which he termed “sensational,” while also noting that Liga MX could learn a thing or two about marketing from MLS.

Barber called Liga MX a mature league. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Garber called Liga MX, “a mature league,” while saying MLS is “still in its first phase, its first generation,” so the MLS Commissioner would like his league to emulate the “quality of their competition, the quality of their actual tournament.” Garber also spoke admiringly of Liga MX’s split season. “I’m really attracted to this concept of how they manage their schedule and yet have playoffs and are able to create a competition that makes sense for them in their market.”

And Garber sounded downright envious of the Mexican league’s clubs that have created a global following for some of their clubs while also producing “world class players.”

Garber is confident that the new Campeones Cup will not hurt the CONCACAF Champions League, a competition that has long struggled for attention in the American soccer landscape.

In fact, the Commission said, “I think it’s the opposite. I think this is going to elevate it. Its whole purpose is to serve as a vehicle to make this, the Concacaf Champions League more valuable, to give it more exposure, to show that the two largest leagues within the confederation can have a special moment, if you will, and it will just add value to and importance to these games that are taking place today and tomorrow.”

Bonilla and Garber announcing the Campeones Cup.

Much has yet to be worked out but we do know that the inaugural Campeones Cup will take place in Toronto on September 19th with 2017 MLS Cup Champion Toronto FC hosting the winner of the Liga MX Campeones de Campeones, featuring the Tigres, winners of Liga MX Apertura, and the Clausura champs.

Bonilla revealed today that the Campeones de Campeones or Champions of Champions game will be held in Los Angeles, on or around July 15.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

1) Atlanta!

72,035! Congratulations to Atlanta United FC and their fans for once again setting the MLS single-game attendance record. After taking the league by storm in its inaugural season, Atlanta will play at shiny new Mercedes Benz Arena all season in 2018 and if this keeps up more records are bound to fall to the 5 Stripes.

Well done Atlanta for your MLS single-game record crowd of 72,035 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (ISI Photos/Perry McIntyre)

Oh, and these guys can play. After a surprising 4-0 shellacking at the hands of the Houston Dynamo in week one Tata Martinez made a tactical switch to a 3-5-2 and saw it pay off in a decisive 3-1 win over visiting DC United.

Atlanta got goals from Joseph Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Hector Villalba in an expansive performance that gave that massive crowd much to cheer about, and plenty of encouragement to return.

2) The Perfects

New York City FC in action against LA Galaxy preseason. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

This is the time of year that we all stumble over ourselves noting that “it’s early, yet” but it is still fun to be 2-0, so enjoy your perfection, Columbus Crew, Vancouver Whitecaps, New York City FC and Los Angeles Football Club, however premature that may be.

3) It’s Supposed to be Harder than This

I’m talking to you LAFC. Most pre-season prognosticators focused on the shallow roster assembled by Bob Bradley and his front office when evaluating the L.A. newcomers chances of success in season one.

Sure, L.A. got off on the right foot with a 1-0 opening road win over Seattle but the Sounders were resting several regulars as they prioritized the CCL, and it’s early, right?

Carlos Vela looks comfortable in the MLS.  (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

But what to make then of the Galaxy’s noisy neighbors now in the wake of Saturday’s demolition of Real Salt Lake? 20-year-old Young DP Diego Rossi is tearing it up with three goals and three assists in the new season. Mexican international and LAFC’s marquee signing Carlos Vela looks very comfortable with his new running mate and MLS vets like Steven Beitashour and Bob Bradley’s old pal Benny Feilhaber are playing lights out for the expansion club.

Yes, it is early but so far so good for LAFC.

4) Red Bulls Play the Kids!

The Red Bulls have played just one regular season match so far in 2018 and they rested virtually their entire team in Saturday’s 4-0 home-opening victory over the Portland Timbers, coached by former MetroStar and New York soccer legend Giovanni Savarese.

With his club holding a 2-0 lead at the halfway point of its CCL quarterfinal aggregate goals match over Tijuana ahead of Tuesday’s second leg, coach Jesse Marsch took his own advice and played the kids.

Marsch stirred up some controversy just two weeks ago when, in answer to GotSoccer’s question, the NYRB coach bluntly stated that yes, “it is really important right now that we have coaches in MLS who are willing to play young players.”

That question and Marsch’s answer specifically referred to American players and against Portland Marsch included three fresh-faced young yanks among the nine changes from his first 11 and all impressed.

Derrick Etienne Jr.. is a New Jersey product.  (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

20-year-old new York born fullback Kyle Duncan excelled in his MLS debut, having just signed after spending two years trying to catch on in France. Derrick Etienne Jr. is a New Jersey product, even if the flamboyant attacker has pledged his international future to Haiti. Etienne Jr. picked up an assist on the first Red Bulls goal, the one scored by 17-year-old Ben Mines. Connecticut product Mines was dangerous for much of the night as he became the third youngest Red Bull/MetroStar to score in MLS play.

Play the kids Marsch said, and play the kids he did.

5) Kamara and Higuain on the Spot

Two MLS veterans reached milestones this weekend as Kei Kamara notched his 100th career MLS goal for his new club, Vancouver, in a 2-1 road victory, while Kamara’s former teammate Federico Higuaín tallied number 50.

That both men reached their milestones via penalty kicks is a rich irony given that Kamara left Columbus largely because of an ugly incident when the then Crew teammates fought on the field to decide which one of them would take a penalty kick.

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USWNT Top England to Regain SheBelieves Cup
USWNT Top England to Regain SheBelieves Cup avatar

It was fitting, perhaps that the lone goal in the USWNT victory over England, a win that secured the SheBelieves Cup for the Americans, was recorded as an own goal, fitting because the host nation managed to regain the title that it surrendered last season to France, without ever really impressing over three games.

U.S. celebrate the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Fitting, too, because despite reversing 2017’s dismal last-place finish, coach Jill Ellis still has questions to answer regarding her best lineup with October’s CONCACAF World Cup Qualification Tournament creeping ever closer.

So, what can we take away from the SheBelieves Cup?

Julie Ertz Needs to Stay Healthy

The wider sports world got to know the USWNT midfielder earlier this year as the soccer playing spouse of Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl hero Zach Ertz but the former Julie Johnston has been known to WoSo fans for years now.

Julie Ertz dominance was missed.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

What has become crystal clear regarding JJ – still her nickname despite her new last name- is that the former center back has become an essential starter in the midfield for the national team.

Ellis tried some different combos after Johnston picked up a knock in game one without much success.

Get well, Julie.

Is Naeher Number 1?

It certainly is looking that way. Some, this scribe included, have wanted to see the competition to lock down Hope Solo’s old job more of a, well, competition. For a while, Ellis went back and forth between Naeher and Jill Harris, with Adrianna Franch rarely getting more than a cursory look.

Naeher is definitely the most experienced keeper going into the qualifiers. (ISI Photos/Howard Smith)

Now, with Ellis moving away from the experimental phase as she searches for her first 11, Naeher has picked up her game at the right time, with an especially convincing effort in game two of the SheBelieves, a 1-0 win over France in New Jersey.

NWSL 2017 Goalkeeper of the Year, Franch, was unavailable through injury for the tourney, and Ellis indicated the Thorns keeper would have made the roster if healthy. Would Franch have gotten a game? We’ll never know now so we will have to keep an eye out during a pair upcoming friendlies versus Mexico.

If Naeher goes 180 minutes we can call declare the “competition” over.

Fullback for Dunn?

Versatility can be both a blessing and a curse, a blessing because playing a variety of positions can help a player get on the field, a curse because it can make it difficult for a player to nail down a full-time job.

But Crystal Dunn is not the stereotypical “Jack of all trades, Master of None.” No, in fact, the case can be made that Dunn has mastered several positions and could make a claim to start at fullback, wingback, winger, or striker.

Dunn has proven that she can shine in multiple positions. (ISI Photos/Jeremy Reper)

So where does Ellis see Dunn come France 2019? The coach appeared to have settled on Dunn as a forward but when circumstances forced her hand last Sunday at Red Bull Arena, Ellis threw Dunn in at left fullback.

After the France match, Ellis noted that Dunn had played wingback for Chelsea and then started Dunn at left fullback against England. Ellis has time to sort out the Dunn conundrum but if the coach can work out the defensive cover, Dunn and Kelley O’Hara could be a nightmare attacking opposing defenses from the flanks.

England finished second under new coach Phil Neville, France came third after claiming the SheBelieves crown last year, while Germany finished last.

Scoring Summary:           1             2             F
USA                                      0             1             1                           
ENG                                     0             0             0

USA – Own goal (Karen Bardsley)                             58th minute

Lineups:

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 16-Emily Sonnett, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 17-Tierna Davidson, 19-Crystal Dunn; 20-Allie Long (14-Sofia Huerta, 74), 9-Lindsey Horan (6-Morgan Brian, 74), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 11-Mallory Pugh (12-Lynn Williams, 90+2), 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe (21-Savannah McCaskill, 80)
Substitutes: 2-Casey Short, 3-Andi Sullivan, 5-Kelley O’Hara, 8-Julie Ertz, 18-Jane Campbell, 22-Taylor Smith, 23-Christen Press, 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head Coach: Jill Ellis 

ENG: 1-Karen Bardsley; 2-Lucy Bronze, 15-Abbie McManus, 6-Millie Bright, 3-Demi Stokes (12-Hannah Blundell, 87); 22-Keira Walsh (8-Jill Scott 86), 16-Izzy Christiansen; 19-Mel Lawley (11-Toni Duggan, 52), 10-Fran Kirby (17-Rachel Daly, 75), 18-Ellen White; 9-Jodie Taylor (7-Nikita Parris, 52)
Substitutes: 4-Fara Williams, 13-Siobhan Chamberlain, 14-Alex Greenwood, 20-Georgia Stanwood, 23-Gabby George
Head Coach: Phil Neville

Stats Summary: USA / ENG
Shots: 8 / 6
Shots on Goal: 2 / 0
Saves: 0 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 4
Fouls: 8 / 13
Offside: 0 / 7

Misconduct Summary:
None

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USWNT Fails to Impress in France Draw – Face England for SheBelieves Title
USWNT Fails to Impress in France Draw – Face England for SheBelieves Title avatar

Harrison, N.J. – The USWNT came into Sunday’s SheBelieves Cup match sitting in second place on goal difference behind England following the home side’s 1-0 win last week over Germany in Columbus and England’s 4-1 shellacking of old rivals France.

Rapinoe was unhappy with her team’s performance. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The World Cup is still a year off but with qualifying just around the corner time is becoming an issue for the Americans and Megan Rapinoe, for one, was clearly unhappy with the state of the U.S. team after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Les Bleus.

Citing “tactical, thinking errors” the dynamic winger summed up the defending World Champions performance as “pretty bad all around. I mean for where we are and where we want to be going, it’s just not good enough.”

And it was hard to disagree with ‘Pinoe, after watching the Yanks struggle to string together passes and control possession, which led the Americans to revert to the old hit and hope tactics of days gone by.

The midfield struggled in the first half. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

With Julie Ertz and Sam Mathis both missing out through injury, Jill Ellis installed Andi Sullivan and Morgan Brian into the what has become the regular midfield trio along with Lindsey Horan, and the results were poor.

Things picked up a bit in the second half when Carli Lloyd came off the bench to provide a couple of incisive passes as the Americans chased a late winner after the first half ended a 1-1 on goals by Mal Pugh and Eugénie Le Sommer.

The sellout crowd at Red Bull Arena seemed happy enough with the effort and a 2-2 draw between England and Germany in Sunday’s RBA nightcap means the U.S. can claim the SheBelieves Cup with a win over England tomorrow night in Orlando.

That may yet come to pass but for Megan Rapinoe the U.S. must be better and for her, the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the players.

“For me, it’s more of the intellectual part of the game, thinking quickly and tactically thinking part of the game. I think when you don’t think quickly you leave yourself having to make decisions under pressure and your technical mistakes are going to increase.”

Given the out of chalking it all up to “a bad day at the office,” Rapinoe demurred. “I don’t know – it was not good enough from anyone,” Rapinoe said.

Rapinoe felt that everyone played badly. (ISI Photos/Howard Smith)

“Everyone played bad on the day but you never really want to accept that or say that. It can’t be that it just happened, so I don’t accept that – we should have played a lot better. Obviously, we’ll look at film and see where we can improve.” “But” the demanding veteran concluded, “there are a lot of things that we can’t really look at film and improve that, that’s individual.”

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“Talent Doesn’t Have a Nationality” Vieira Disagrees with Marsch
“Talent Doesn’t Have a Nationality” Vieira Disagrees with Marsch avatar

Orangeburg, N.Y. – A flicker of a smile creased Patrick Vieira’s lips on Thursday afternoon when GotSoccer asked the NYCFC coach for his reaction to Jesse Marsch’s recent comments suggesting that MLS coaches have a responsibility to play young Americans and the Red Bulls boss’s suggestion that foreign managers are perhaps not sufficiently interested in that aspect of the job.

Vieira was very vocal about his views. (ISI Photos/Mark Lawrence)

“I think I would disagree with that statement,” the Frenchman began, speaking to a small clutch of reporters at New York City Football Club’s new training center in Orangeburg, N.Y. “I think we are talking about talent and talent doesn’t have a nationality.” Vieira noted that NYCFC plays by the rules of the league saying, “when we decide to sign a player, for us, the only thing that we’re looking at is if the player is fitting well with the way we want to play the game.” “So,” Vieira added, “if the players are French or American, just the talent helps us make a decision.”

Asked about two of the young American players on his side, James Sands and Jonathan Lewis, Vieira made it clear that the duo would have to earn what they get. “They are both competing for the spot,” the coach stated and likely thinking back to his own playing days with Arsenal, Vieira continued:

“I strongly believe it is like in England when they said there’s too many foreigners and that’s why there is not enough quality players for the national team and I think,” the former French international said with emphasis, “that is hiding behind the (ineffective) work from the federation and the league.”

Vieira blames the state of the USMNT on the U.S. development system. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Vieira placed the blame for the state of the USMNT squarely on the development system in this country, ladling out an extra dose of culpability on the college game.

“People have to take responsibility, you have to look at how you are developing players, and (those are) the main issues here. How you educate coaches, how do you educate young players at grassroots.”

Vieira was similarly unimpressed when Mexico’s former system requiring guaranteed minutes for “home” players was raised. “You would have to play him, even if he is not good?” Vieira asked with a shrug, adding, “the problem is how come you don’t have quality players to play in the first team.”

“If you want to go to James Sands and say, ok James, I’m going to play you because you are American, I don’t think he is going to be happy about it. James will want to play because he is good enough to play.”

For Vieira, it all comes down to “the number of hours they spend on the field.” According to Vieira, “when you compare the French players, the number of hours that the young players spend on the field” is three times what his U.S. counterpart spends on the pitch.

“There is no secret,” Vieira said, “the more time you spend on the field, the better chance you will have to progress.”

The problem is not when the players reach MLS, the third year New York coach said, “the problem is before they get to the MLS.” To illustrate his point Vieira used his own second-year man Jonathan Lewis as an example.

Jonathan Lewis on draft day. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

“When you go to college, for the draft, to pick up a Jonathan Lewis who do four months of competition and training two, three times a week and he is 20 years old, how do you want him to fulfill his potential?”

By Vieira’s reckoning a player like Lewis has “been losing five, six, seven years,” and the coach wonders, “how do you want to get that back?”

And it’s not just with the college that Vieira sees problems, the coach believes that the American players are “losing too many years, between 10 and 20.”

The talent is there Vieira says, mentioning the players he sees at the NYCFC academy. “They’ve got the talent, they are good enough.”

So, no it doesn’t sound as if Vieira will be taking up Marsch’s challenge, because as the Frenchman put it, “we are talking about talent and talent doesn’t have a nationality.”

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NY Red Bulls Coach Jesse Marsch Calls on MLS Coaches to Play Young Americans
NY Red Bulls Coach Jesse Marsch Calls on MLS Coaches to Play Young Americans avatar

Harrison, N.J. – New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch went there.

Speaking to the assembled press at New York Red Bulls Media Day on Tuesday afternoon, GotSoccer asked the fourth year supremo, if, in light of the USMNT’s World Cup failure, MLS coaches have a responsibility to give time to young American players?

Jesse Marsch calls on coaches to give young players playing time. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

It is a question that has generally been dismissed out of hand by the notion that coaches in any league must play the players that give their team the best chance of winning while also giving the coach the best odds of keeping his job.

But Marsch took a different tack. Marsch went there.

“Yes, in the current U.S. (soccer) climate I think that developing young American talent is more vital than ever,” the Red Bulls coach began. “Now, that being said, there’s countless people in this country, countless people,” Marsch went on, “that are putting their best foot forward in this moment, so to just talk about Red Bull would be totally unfair because there’s so many at the grassroots level, even within our club with our training programs, there are so many people that are committed to youth development.”

For Marsh the next step, getting those young American players on the pitch is simple, “it requires professional coaches who are willing and ready to play young players.”

“Every club in the league says they’re about youth development, every one,’ Marsch noted, “but I could show you reasons why most of them are not and I think what we’re doing here at Red Bull, yes, is very important to football in our country. It’s what we believe in, it’s who we are, it’s what benefits us in terms of our style of play. And listen, we also have a big benefit because we have a great academy.”

“But nonetheless,” Marsch underlined, “it is really important right now that we have coaches in MLS who are willing to play young players.”

19 year old Tyler Adams was one of the home grown players to make an impact last season. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

So, why don’t more teams follow the Red Bulls lead and play their American youngsters? Marsch sees two possible culprits, an influx of foreign coaches into MLS and Targeted Allocation Money, or TAM.

Not that he is turning his nose up at the extra funding that TAM allows but Marsch sees some potential problems with the program.

“Ultimately,” the Red Bulls boss concedes, “each coach has to decide what their identity is but I think even as a league, when you look at TAM initiative versus youth development initiatives, we all love TAM money, it helps put better players into our team but it could potentially threaten youth development and we need to find a way to incentivize academies, homegrown players, youth development, selling of young players, whatever it may be so that teams are continually committed to actually playing young players. Not just hoping that they’ll play young players and have good academies but committed to doing it because they could be rewarded.”

As for the foreign coaches, Marsch had this to say. “One of the concerns with more foreign coaches is, are their motivations as tied to youth development from an American standpoint as maybe some of the American coaches?”

Later in the press conference, another reporter asked Marsch to clarify his remarks on foreign coaches and he began somewhat optimistically, saying “I don’t want this to be taken as a massive talking point,” before continuing. “I think it’s great that we have some good foreign coaches in our league, they bring something new, but I think it’s important for everyone to understand. Given the climate of where we are with U.S Soccer that developing the American player is important, is massively important and if we have coaches who don’t value that, then we’re going to now jeopardize the future of where we are with U.S.soccer.”

“This is a responsibility, it’s a responsibility as a professional coach to commit yourself to the young American players, a responsibility” Marsh emphasized, “that we all should have, so I just want to make that very clear.”

Yes, Jesse Marsch went there.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

With Season 23 about ready to kick off it is time for the first MLS Big – 5 of the year, so let’s get to it.

Play the Kids?!

With all the hand-wringing regarding youth development in the wake of the USMNT’s failure to advance to Russia, we have to ask, will MLS teams give the youth of America a chance to prove its worth in 2018?

Andrew Carleton during a training session with the U20’s. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Will there be room for Andrew Carleton in Atlanta’s stacked midfield? Similarly, can Chris Durkin force his way into Ben Olsen’s re-stocked midfield in the nation’s capital?

Of course, there is no way of compelling coaches to entrust their jobs to the vagaries of youth, sill it is worth asking if Weston McKennie can find playing time in the Bundesliga, why more young players can’t see regular action in a league with what can only be called a “forgiving” playoff system.

Following a breakout season as an 18 year old in 2017 New York Red Bulls midfielder/defender Tyler Adams is the current standard bearer for Homegrown talent, while Real Salt Lake showed the way as a team; getting good performances from a trio of young stars last season in Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta, and Brooks Lennon.

With the success of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, Germany has become a haven of late for young Americans but if the USMNT is going to turn things around Major League Soccer is going to have to do its part.

2. All the Young Dudes

The old MLS as Retirement League trope took quite a hit this off-season with teams around the league going all in on young South and Central American players. Atlanta made the biggest splash, signing 18-year-old Argentine midfielder Ezequiel Barco on a league record $15 million transfer.

Ezequiel Barco (L) during a preseason friendly match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Barco will be joined in MLS this season by a host of other talented youngsters including 20-year-old Jesus Medina, NYCFC, 19-year-olds Diego Rossi, LAFC, and Josue Colman, Orlando City.

A major boost in Targeted Allocation Money, or TAM, has financed this run on young Latino talent but is this influx of young talent from Central and South America contributing to the lack of playing time for Young Yanks discussed in item 1?

Perhaps but the league’s talent level is bound to rise and it will be up to the Young Americans to keep up.

3. Hotlanta!

How good can Atlanta be? The team did everything right in its maiden season before raising eyebrows, and league standards in the build-up to year two with the Barco signing garnering most of the attention.

Darlington Nagbe (R) will add more flair to an already exciting Atlanta. (ISI Photos/John Norton)

The exciting, if enigmatic, Darlington Nagbe will add his silky skills to an already smooth United attack and with a year of playing together under their belts, Atlanta should be even better. Miguel Almiron is still in Atlanta, exciting youngster Andrew Carleton may get a chance to show what he’s got at this level and if Josef Martinez can stay healthy, watch out. The Venezuelan striker notched an impressive 19 goals in just 20 appearances and if he can stay healthy Atlanta could make a deep run playoff run.

4) TFC 2?

A year after becoming the first Canadian side to hoist the MLS Cup while also setting a points record the question is, can they do it again? The answer would seem to be why not.

Gregory van der Wiel was brought in to replace Beitashour. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Not surprisingly then TFC went into the off-season with a shorter to-do list than most. Greg Vanney did need a new fullback/wingback to replace solid veteran Steven Beitashour, so he scooped up former Netherlands international Gregory van der Wiel as well as adding another weapon in 24-year-old Spanish midfielder Ager Aketxe from Bilbao. Aketxe played most recently at Cadiz and should be another headache for MLS coaches trying to game plan against Giovinco, Altidore and the rest of the dangerous Reds squad.

5) LA Story

Sounds so nice they had to say it twice. Oh, sorry, wrong coast. Instead, let’s look 3,000 miles west where Los Angeles is set to become a fascinating battleground for MLS prominence with LAFC arriving on the heels of the once mighty Galaxy’s worst season ever.

Sigi Schmid took over the floundering former dynasty part way through 2017 and didn’t exactly turn things around. No, instead the MLS originals finished with the worst record in the league. Unfamiliar territory for the five-time MLS Cup Champions.

Carlos Vela (R)  should bring some excitement to the LAFC offense. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Now along comes LAFC, with its cadre of big-name owners, a fancy new stadium in downtown LA, Bob Bradley behind the bench and Mexican national team star Carlos Vela to woo the area’s much desired Mexican-American demographic.

With Will Farrell cracking wise from the stands at Banc of California Stadium should the Galaxy be worried out in suburban Carson, California? Maybe, but the Galaxy has too much talent on its roster to suffer another 2017 type disaster.

Included in that group are the Dos Santos brothers, with Jonathan on hand from the beginning of the campaign to assist brother Gio in righting the Galaxy ship. The Galaxy may have solved their goalkeeper issues with the addition of David Bingham from San Jose, Perry Kitchen adds some hustle to the midfield, Chris Pontius is a nice veteran pickup, and still just 30 despite having been around it seems, forever.

Romain Alessandrini was a huge bright spot last season and a returning Sebastian Lletget will be a big boost Schmid’s crew. Lletget was a big loss to both L.A. and the USMNT when he went down with a Lisfranc foot injury last year and while L.A. will be careful with the midfielder, a healthy Lletget is a big addition to the Galaxy.

So, what about the new kids on the block?

LAFC would seem to be fighting a battle on at least three fronts, with the Galaxy, the shadow of Atlanta’s expansion success, and oh yeah, the rest of MLS, in particular, the Western Conference.

The newcomers should be well set with Bradley as coach, but a coach can only do so much, so who will be donning the YouTube emblazoned LAFC unis?

Designated Player Vela is the big signing with Young DP Diego Rossi also generating plenty of buzz. Bradley has a group of MLS proven veterans led by defenders Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman, and Steven Beitashour. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber is a Bradley favorite and his playmaking skills should be a boon to the new side. Marco Urena has arrived from San Jose and should shoulder some of the scoring load up front – for what it’s worth Urena has been hot in the pre-season.

There is talent in this squad but with the roster showing just 18 players, not much depth, so Bradley will have to augment his roster, and hope for good health.

6. Bonus* Save the Crew?

Is this season a referendum on Save the Crew? If Columbus sold out every match at MAPFRE Stadium, would owner Anthony Precourt care? And what about Austin? What happens if the Texans say thanks but no thanks to the Crew?

Berhalter will be hoping that Zardes can prove himself to be an out and out striker.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Meanwhile, Gregg Berhalter has to get his team ready to play soccer minus Ola Kamara and Justin Meram. If Gyasi Zardes can prove that he really is a striker and not winger, and Berhalter will give him that chance, then the on-field issues could work out well enough.

Off the field, who knows?

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NWSL Names USWNT and Canadian National Team Stars for 2018 Season
NWSL Names USWNT and Canadian National Team Stars for 2018 Season avatar

Canada will have 11 of their players funded to play in NWSL by the Canadian Fed(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

With the start of season number six little over a month away NWSL followers and participants alike are looking to turn the page on a difficult winter, lowlighted by the loss of the Boston Breakers franchise, and to that end the league has announced its list of allocated players from the national team’s of the United States and Canada, with the Mexican federation no longer participating.

23 of Jill Ellis’ troops will have their salaries paid by U.S. soccer while 11 of Canada’s best will be funded by the Canadian fed.

Via the league’s website six players are newly assigned for this season, Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage) and Taylor Smith (Washington Spirit) from the United States, ; and from Canada, Sky Blue FC forward Adriana Leon and Washington Spirit defender Rebecca Quinn.

Leroux’s rights will remain with Orlando Pride. (ISI Photos/Amy Kontras)

Three formerly allocated players rights will remain with their current clubs: Sydney Leroux (Orlando Pride), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride) and Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC). Morgan Brian joined Olympique Lyon this offseason, but her rights will remain with the Chicago Red Stars.

Also not on this list is Stephanie Labbé, who played for the Spirit in 2016/2017. On Wednesday night the team announced that they had elected not retain her rights, and she is now available to all teams via the NWSL Distribution Process. Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday to submit their interest with the league office.

Longtime stalwart Meghan Klingenberg did not make the U.S. list, joining Portland Thorns teammate, and 2017 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, Adrianna Franch, on the outside looking in.

Here is the entire list, again per nwslsoccer.com.

Allocated players, by team:
*New Federation Player in 2018

Chicago Red Stars
Julie Ertz (USA)

Alyssa Naeher (USA)

Casey Short (USA)

Houston Dash
Jane Campbell (USA)*

Christen Press (USA)

Nichelle Prince (CAN)

North Carolina Courage
Allysha Chapman (CAN)

Sabrina D’Angelo (CAN)

Abby Dahlkemper (USA)*

Crystal Dunn (USA)*

Samantha Mewis (USA)

Lynn Williams (USA)

Orlando Pride
Ashlyn Harris (USA)

Alex Morgan (USA)

Shelina Zadorsky (CAN)

Portland Thorns FC
Tobin Heath (USA)

Lindsey Horan (USA)

Christine Sinclair (CAN)

Emily Sonnett (USA)

Seattle Reign FC
Allie Long (USA)

Megan Rapinoe (USA)

Sky Blue FC
Janine Beckie (CAN)

Adriana Leon (CAN)*

Carli Lloyd (USA)

Kailen Sheridan (CAN)

Utah Royals FC
Diana Matheson (CAN)

Kelley O’Hara (USA)

Amy Rodriguez (USA)

Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)

Desiree Scott (CAN)

Washington Spirit
Rose Lavelle (USA)

Mallory Pugh (USA)

Rebecca Quinn (CAN)*

Taylor Smith (USA)*

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U.S. Men’s and Women’s Teams Look to Shift Focus Back to the Field
U.S. Men’s and Women’s Teams Look to Shift Focus Back to the Field avatar

With U.S. followers still digesting the election of Carlos Cordeiro to the top spot in U.S. Soccer, the Federation’s senior teams will attempt to return the focus to the field as the two sides get set to return to action.

Dave Strachan looks likely to manage the Men in their next three games. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

On the men’s side of the ledger, a troika of friendlies has been added to kick off the 2018 schedule. With interim boss, Dave Sarachan expected to be at the helm for all three matches the Yanks will host Paraguay at the 10,000 seat Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on March 27.

Speaking at Saturday’s AGM, Cordeiro and U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn made it plain that hiring a new coach for the Men’s National Team would have to wait until the newly created General Manager’s position is filled and that the appointment of a men’s supremo would take precedence over hiring a GM for the women’s side, not too surprising given the relative stability of the women’s program.

Sitting alongside Cordeiro on Saturday afternoon at Cordeiro’s first press conference as President of U.S. Soccer, Flynn called filling the men’s GM role “the first priority.”

Flynn declined to “publicly state a timeline” for the hire but the CEO sounded anxious to get to it, noting that “we have candidates identified.” Cordeiro agreed with Flynn’s assessment, saying of the process, “it’s a huge priority,” adding, “we need the General Manager in place before we can go find a coach.”

So, Sarachan looks set to continue in his caretaker role when the USMNT crosses the Atlantic to challenge the Republic of Ireland on June 2, in Dublin, before facing World Cup-bound France in Lyon on June 9.

Ellis has once again included a few inexperienced players in her squad. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

For the USWNT it is SheBelieves Cup time once again and Jill Ellis has named an intriguing roster for the four-team tournament taking place in early March.

Ellis will have to drop three players to reach the 23 player maximum for the tournament, a set of three doubleheaders featuring four of the World’s best women’s national teams, Germany, France, and, England, in addition, to the United States.

The series opens with England and France going toe to toe at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio with the U.S.A. taking on Germany in the nightcap.

The Americans will be looking to rebound from a poor performance at the 2017 event when the home team finished in last place, beating only Germany, 1-0, in the opening match before falling to England and France to end the tournament on a sour note.

This 26 player roster is highlighted by an inexperienced defense that is minus co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn, out with a foot injury, and includes two players culled from the college ranks, Tierna Davidson (Stanford) and Hailie Mace (UCLA).

Mace has no caps on her CV, while Davidson has just one. With 105 caps Kelley O’Hara is the veteran of the young group.

Pugh and Morgan are included in the initial squad. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Ellis will also be without stalwarts Tobin Heath, ankle, and Sam Mewis, knee, but stars Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, and Megan Rapinoe have all been named to the preliminary roster.

This will be former Manchester United, Everton, and England defender Phil Neville’s first match in charge of the England team after his recent, and controversial appointment.

March 1, 2018 – MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
4:00 – England v France
7:00 – United States v Germany

March 4, 2018 – Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
12:00 – United States v France
3:00 – Germany v England

March 7, 2018 – Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida
4:00 – France v Germany
7:00 – United States v England
U.S. roster (caps/goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 2/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 14/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 24/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 14/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 1/0), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 3/0), Hailie Mace (UCLA; 0/0), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC; 105/2), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 19/0), Taylor Smith (Washington Spirit; 8/0), Emily Sonnett (Sydney FC, AUS/Portland Thorns FC; 13/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 69/6), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 58/15), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 44/4), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 7/2), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 247/98), Allie Long (Seattle Reign FC; 33/6), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 8/0)

FORWARDS (8): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC, ENG/NC Courage; 58/23), Ashley Hatch (Melbourne City FC, AUS/Washington Spirit; 1/0), Savannah McCaskill (Sky Blue FC; 1/0), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 135/81), Christen Press (Houston Dash; 97/44), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 30/8), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 130/34), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 16/4)

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Carlos Cordeiro is the New President of U.S. Soccer
Carlos Cordeiro is the New President of U.S. Soccer avatar

Orlando, Fl. – An election fueled by outraged calls for change in the aftermath of the United States Men’s National Team’s World Cup elimination ended today in Orlando, Florida with the elevation of the sitting Vice President of U.S. Soccer, Carlos Cordeiro.

Cordero being congratulated on his win. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Cordeiro’s ascension to the organization’s top spot was the culmination of a masterful campaign which saw the new President pull off a difficult strategy of highlighting his experience and his relationships within the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) while at the same time managing to convince voters that he was his own man, and not a surrogate for outgoing President Sunil Gulati.

Cordeiro was helped in that mission by his decision to declare his candidacy prior to Gulati’s announcement that he would step down after 12 years at the helm of U.S. Soccer.

Cordeiro also benefited from the perception that it was Soccer United Marketing CEO Kathy Carter and not Cordeiro, that was, in fact, the “establishment” choice.

Either way, it was clear after the first round of voting that none of the six “change” candidates would become President of U.S. Soccer at the end of this process.

The first round results. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Cordeiro topped the first ballot with 36.3% of the vote, leading Carter, with 34.6%, with the chasing pack led by Eric Wynalda, well behind.

After garnering a scant 0.5% of the vote Paul Caligiuri opted to end his campaign. Cordeiro looked to be on the road to victory when he improved his lead after the second round with Carter dropping a percentage point as the front-runner’s support broke the 40% mark.

With his vote total falling to 0, Michael Winograd withdrew from the race, as did Steve Gans, whose support dipped to 2.4% of the votes after the second round of voting.

Cordeiro was declared the new President of U.S. Soccer after the third round with 68.6% of the vote, helped to that impressive total when MLS moved to the Cordeiro camp, abandoning its preferred candidate Carter.

Cordeiro sought to begin the healing process brought about by this contentious campaign, both immediately following his victory and some time later in his first press conference as President of U.S. Soccer.

Cordeiro posed for photos to celebrate his win. (ISI Photos/Mark Torstenson)

In fact, after noting that he was “very, very excited,” the newly elected President opened his inaugural presser by “thanking the seven other candidates.” “It was a very spirited campaign,” Cordeiro said, noting that “lots of very good issues surfaced. The membership” Cordeiro continued, “were more engaged than at any time I can remember in history, from the grassroots all the way to the pros.”

Sitting alongside U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn, Cordeiro listed securing the 2026 World Cup as “the most important priority of the federation” a process that he said would begin on Tuesday morning when the U.S. Canada and Mexico will get together for a scheduled meeting.

Coming in just behind World Cup 2026 on the new administrations to do list is hiring two General Managers, one each to run the USMNT and the USWNT.

“The first priority, “Flynn explained “is on the men’s side.” Flynn declined to give out a timeline but said that “we have candidates identified” with Cordeiro chiming in to note that “the board has approved both positions.”

Cordeiro ran what could almost be described as a stealth campaign, ceding the spotlight to his more voluble opponents while he worked on taking care of business behind the scenes.

Solo openly attacked Cordeiro and Carter in her speech.  (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Cordeiro readily admitted that running for VP two years ago with “more or less the same voting base,” was “perhaps to my advantage” in this race. The new President added that he tried to focus on the issues and that tunnel vision was on display when Cordeiro and Hope Solo hugged as the former U.S. goalkeeper left the stage immediately after delivering a stinging attack on Cordeiro and Kathy Carter.

“To be honest I wasn’t listening to her speech at that point in time because I was about to walk up.” Cordeiro noted, however, that Solo has frequently criticized him in the past, adding that Solo “is free to say what she wants to say, I obviously don’t agree with that.”

That ability to focus on the job at hand served Cordeiro well as a candidate, now that he has won the job, that talent will surely be tested anew.

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Presidential Candidates Dominate United States Coaches Convention
Presidential Candidates Dominate United States Coaches Convention avatar

Philadelphia, Pa. – The Presidential Candidates Forum hosted by US Youth Soccer was the undoubted centerpiece of the just completed United States Coaches Convention but it was hardly the only attraction when much of the American soccer community converged on the City of Brotherly Love this past weekend.

Draft countdown during the 2018 NWSL College Draft. (ISI Photos/)Jose L. Argueta)

No, not by a long shot. First we had the yearly talent auctions, the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft on Thursday, followed on Friday by the MLS SuperDraft. Both drafts drew large crowds of supporters, league officials, and press, but with a full roster of events taking place throughout the Convention, there were choices to be made.

Among the speakers on offer were Bruce Arena, Sunil Gulati, and seven of the eight candidates for U.S. Soccer President in one on one settings. Then, there was the usual array of educational meetings and demonstrations as well as a convention floor packed with vendors from all areas of the soccer world, including of course GotSoccer.

Led by CEO Gavin Owen-Thomas, GotSoccer staffers met clients old and new at the centrally located GotSoccer booth in between educational sessions provided by GotSoccer’s talented staff.

The highly anticipated annual GotSoccer party was a smash hit once again, with host Owen-Thomas saying a big thank you to GotSoccer clients at a festive and jam packed Hard Rock Cafe.

With so much going on there was no way to take it all, but here are a few highlights.

Garber with the number one pick Mountinho. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

SuperDraft 2018 began with Save the Crew chants threatening to drown out MLS Commissioner Don Garber as he announced Joao Moutinho as the number one pick in the draft by the Los Angeles Football Club and reached a soccer highpoint when the hometown Philadelphia Union defied its own tightfisted image by sending $1.3 million in combined allocation money to the Chicago Fire in exchange for winger David Accam.

The days emotional peak came early when Francis Atuahene stood behind the podium after FC Dallas selected had him with the fourth pick of the SuperDraft following a trade with the Montreal Impact. The 21 year winger is the latest player to come to MLS through the Right to Dream Academy, following the same path to MLS as last year’s number one pick Abu Danladi of Minnesota United FC.

Atuahene began his remarks by thanking his grandmother and mother “back in Ghana” and his American family, his High School and the University of Michigan, among others before saying this. “I believe that everyone has a right to dream but unfortunately where I come from only a few have had that chance to realize that dream and I am glad to use my status as a professional player and more importantly my education to make a difference in the lives of people around me as well as my community back in Ghana.”

Atuahene with Garber. (ISI PhotosJose L. Argueta)

Atuahene had the audience in the palm of his hands when he added, “the Right to Dream Academy did it for me and now it is my turn to do it for others.”

But back to soccer. In a deal completed after the SuperDraft Atlanta United FC continued on its mission to shake up MLS paying out a league record shattering $15 million transfer fee to bring Ezequiel Barco to MLS. Just 18 years old the Argentine midfielder can play centrally or out wide for Tata Martino’s side but more importantly this signing again underlines the second year side’s ambition, and dares the rest of the league to match it.

A strange SuperDraft anomaly came about with a run on goalkeepers that saw New York City FC, the Houston Dynamo, and the Columbus Crew select Jeff Caldwell, Virginia, Michael Nelson, SMU, and Ben Lundgaard, Virginia Tech, with the 19, 20, 21 picks respectively.

The run on lanky glovemen came after Sporting KC made Butler’s Eric Dick the first netminder selected with the 13th pick of the SuperDraft.

NWSL Draft

One day prior to the MLS SuperDraft the more modestly monikered NWSL College Draft had the spotlight and while it was no surprise that Andi Sullivan, of Stanford and the USWNT was selected first by the Washington Spirit the Draft did not lack for drama and as in the MLS SuperDraft, it was a trade that stole the headlines.

NWSL first pick Andi Sullivan did not attend the draft due to international duty. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

And why not, with Carli Lloyd at the center of the biggest trade in league history. Lloyd, the two time World Player of the Year, wanted to return to her Jersey roots and while Sky Blue FC had to be happy to bring her home the team payed a steep price in surrendering Australian goal scoring ace Sam Kerr, who ends up with the Chicago Stars while Lloyd’s fellow USWNT star Christen Press lands in Houston from Chicago as part of the deal.

While not naming names Paul RIley, the coach of the Carolina Courage, seemed to be referencing the big trade when he expressed disappointment to a small clutch of reporters, including GotSoccer, that “players are starting to push, and make decisions for teams, and I don’t like that.”

“The players,” Reilly continued, “should play wherever they are, whatever uniform they put on.” Reilly concedes that there can come a time when a player needs “a change of coach, or a change of atmosphere” but he says “this, I’m from this area, or that area, I need to go home is tough for me.”

“I’d love to coach on Long Island,” Reilly continued, “but the reality is there’s no team in Long Island, so I’m ok with going to North Carolina or Buffalo, wherever it is.” “I think,” Reilly said, “they need to be a little bit more professional,” before noting, “in the men’s game they don’t get to pick where they play, do they?”

Prior to Saturday’s Forum seven of the eight candidates to succeed Sunil Gulati at the battered helm of U.S. Soccer addressed conventioneers, with only Carlos Cordeiro opting to keep his powder dry for the USYS session.

Dellacamera during The Presidential Candidates Forum. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

All of the candidates acquitted themselves well as J.P. Dellacamera presented three preselected questions and as many ”wildcard” queries as time allowed, along with opening and closing remarks. The format had been changed to a forum from the previously announced debate, with USYS feeling that eight candidates would make for an unwieldy debate.

A reasonable contention, although one candidate later lamented the change, telling GotSoccer that distinctions could have been better drawn in the original format. As it was GotSoccer felt that no candidate separated him or herself from the pack, leading to a hectic few weeks ahead of the February 11th election at the USSF AGM in Orlando.

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Candidate for President of U.S. Soccer – Kathy Carter
Candidate for President of U.S. Soccer – Kathy Carter avatar

“I’m not the establishment candidate,” Kathy Carter told GotSoccer recently as we chatted amidst the midday din at a trendy Manhattan restaurant.

Since announcing her candidacy to succeed Sunil Gulati as President of U.S. Soccer earlier this month, Carter, the President of Soccer United Marketing, or SUM, has been forced to perform a delicate dance of touting her decades of experience in the sport without seeming too much of an insider at this anti-incumbent moment as the American soccer community reckons with the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the World Cup next summer in Russia.

Kathy Carter (L) with Don Garber. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

“I’m not on the Board of Directors,” Carter said, by way of distancing herself from the “establishment” tag before pivoting to say, “clearly I’ve got a lot of experience.”

That experience took Carter from the pitch, where she tended goal in front of current USWNT coach Jill Ellis at William and Mary, to working on the organizing committee for the 1994 World Cup, to marketing MLS at its inception and eventually to SUM.

As Carter put it “I’ve been a part of the development and founding of Major League Soccer and ultimately the development of it, so my track record certainly proves that I’ve got the ability to evolve and change things and I hope,” Carter said, “to do that at the federation level as well.”

When we spoke the candidate had just returned from Toronto, where in addition to watching TFC raise the MLS Cup after defeating the 2016 champions Seattle Sounders, Carter had an opportunity to meet some of the voters in the February election.

I asked Carter if she was sensing the same “burn it all down” mentality among potential voters that many supporters felt immediately following the disastrous result in Trinidad and Tobago?

Carter was clear that the U.S. Women’s nation team is the best in the world.(ISI Photos/Steven Limentani)

“What I’m sensing,” Carter began, “is that change is good” although she was quick to differentiate between the men’s team and the women’s, noting that while the men failed, “our women are the best in the world.”

“What I’m sensing from the women is that we can’t stand on our laurels,” Carter relayed. “We need to continue to innovate and develop so that we maintain our dominance on the women’s level.”

Carter added that “on the men’s side of the game we need to continue to evolve so that we don’t find ourselves in this position ever again.” Citing the Paralympic program and beach soccer as examples, Carter stressed that “the program is vast” and the World Cup flop, “is one piece. What’s happened, and I share the great fervor and emotion about our not qualifying for Russia, I think we can never be in this situation again – but when I think about what the federation means, the national team is one piece but there’s a lot more that goes on with the federation.”

Carter explained. “Continuing to drive membership, and by that, I mean more kids and more amateurs into the game is as important as our national teams being successful on a global level.” “So,” Carter continued, “we cannot think of one to the exclusion of the other because I think that we have all of those things that we need to achieve success in.”

I asked Carter for her views on the hot-button issues of the day. First up, pay to play.

“Anybody that says that they have unilateral ability to abolish pay to play is selling the votes a line of b.s,” Carter told me. Carter calls the issue, “rather complex,” but believes that U.S. Soccer should be “making sure that we create more and more opportunities for kids to come into the game and for people to stay in the game.”

Carter cited “scholarship programs, education for parents and kids about the right path to be in this game, so that they aren’t chasing the dream and spending money, and spending money, and spending money, whether that’s on good programs or perhaps programs that don’t take them to their ultimate goal.”

Kathy Carter feels that it is impotent to get the kids to stay in the system.(ISI Photos/Jose Argueta)

Although Carter sees pay to play as “part of American sports in its totality” she told GotSoccer, “I think there are ways for kids to come in the system and more importantly to stay in the system.”

Asked about the Academy system Carter spoke of the role of the President of U.S. Soccer, saying that job requires “vision and leadership,” and “part of that is making sure that we have the right people around the table to have those conversations.”

The candidate “has had a lot of conversations with people in the game who have a variety of points of view about that and what I would say is, I don’t believe that I am the person to make those decisions, solely and individually.”

“I believe I’m the right person to put the smartest people in the room around technical development and athlete development from an elite level and make sure that we collaborate around the best way to make sure that players go through the system.”

With all the emphasis on the top levels of the game, Carter said unbidden, “if we don’t figure out a way to make sure that we empower the grassroots of this game and that there’s a base then we’ll leave kids out of the game.”

And then there is promotion and relegation or pro/rel. What does Carter think?

“I’m a fan of it. I like it as a fan,” Carter began before adding, “as it relates to the development of our game today, we’re not ready for it.” Paul Lapointe has proposed trying out pro/rel at the lower levels of the U.S. game and I asked Carter her opinion.

“Not today,” was the reply. Why not? “I think today we need stability in all of professional soccer.” “We need to make sure that we have stability much more than we need to institute, today, promotion and relegation.”

“That doesn’t mean,” Carter finished, “that someday down the line that it won’t be a time for that discussion but today is not the right day.”

Qualifications:

Following her college soccer career as a goalkeeper for William and Mary, where Carter counted current USWNT coach Jill Ellis as a teammate, Carter went on to a successful marketing career.

Highlights include working on the 1994 U.S. World Cup committee.
Serving as VP of Corporate Marketing for MLS from 1996-99.
President of Soccer United Marketing (SUM)

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