Young Yanks Search for Meaning in Win Over Paraguay
Young Yanks Search for Meaning in Win Over Paraguay avatar

The United States Men’s National Team defeated Paraguay 1-0 Tuesday night in North Carolina in front of a sellout crowd of 9,825!

A game between two nations that failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia this summer can’t help but inspire an existential moment or two. With that in mind, our word for today is “meaningless.” As in the phrase “meaningless friendly.” Or the question: “Can any game really be called meaningless?”

The players seemed to find meaning in the friendly match.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The players certainly seemed to find some meaning in the match with Paraguay piling up five yellow cards to two for the U.S.A., and this in a match where the referee exhibited a strong desire to, eh, “let them play.”

When not taking lumps out of each other the players clearly wanted to impress, although, with both sides coached by caretaker managers, the players would have been unsure of exactly which eyes it was that they were hoping to catch.

In the case of the U.S. players, there is also an as yet to be hired General Manager to convince. But with that in mind, there were some players who showed well on the night and here are a few thoughts on that.

Matt Miazga has polished off the rough edges from his game and has added physical strength to become a commanding presence at the heart of the U.S. defense.

He paired very well with Cameron Carter-Vickers, his old partner from the U.S. national youth teams, making it is easy to pencil in the two as the future of the position for the senior squad. Particularly with John Brooks’ constant injury issues.

But, and there’s always a but, both Miazga and CCV are at crucial points in their respective careers. Carter-Vickers is playing at Ipswich after a stint at fellow English Championship side Sheffield United. Miazga is in his second season at Vitesse in the Netherlands top flight. Both have benefitted from the experience gained on these loan moves from parent clubs Tottenham, for Cameron-Vickers, and Chelsea, for Miazga.

Wil Trapp got man of the match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

What happens next season is paramount for the duo. It may not be at Chelsea or Tottenham but both need to step up a league if they want to lock down a couple of spots that are there for the taking.

“Wil Trapp, Wil Trapp, Wil Trapp.”

After Columbus beat the New York Red Bulls in a game at Red Bull Arena back in 2014 RBNY star Thierry Henry described the reason for the Crew’s effectiveness by singing the praises of the Columbus midfielder.

Henry seemed to indicate that he saw Trapp as a future member of the USMNT, when he said, “He has, hopefully for him, a good future. He’s American, you guys should be happy, but today I thought he was the difference.”

Since then Trapp’s senior international career has been limited to scraps. Last night Trapp was excellent. If this match turns out to be the start of something for the 25-year old that would give this match some meaning.

Run, Tyler, Run!

19-year-old midfielder Tyler Adams was everywhere against Paraguay, gliding over every inch of the pitch, including a lengthy gallop that earned a penalty kick for the lone goal of the match.

At one point Adams outraced an opponent to win a loose ball in the midfield despite having spotted his rival about six yards in a 10-yard race.

Adams broke through with the Red Bulls and the USMNT U20’s last season, he is breaking out with Red Bulls and the full national team this season and while Adams can still refine some of his offensive skills, new challenges beckon; sooner rather than later.

So, meaningful then? We will see.

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

USA – Bobby Wood 45th minute

Lineups:
USA: 12-Zack Steffen; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Matt Miazga, 5-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 19-Jorge Villafaña; 20-Wil Trapp; 6-Darlington Nagbe (9-Cristian Roldan, 90+2), 8-Marky Delgado (11-Tim Weah, 86), 4-Tyler Adams, 10-Kenny Saief (23-Rubio Rubin, 67); 7-Bobby Wood (18-Andrija Novakovich, 77)
Substitutes not used: 1-Bill Hamid, 13-Erik Palmer-Brown, 14-Antonee Robinson, 15-Eric Lichaj, 17-Shaq Moore
Head coach: Dave Sarachan

PAR: 1-Roberto Fernandez; 5-Bruno Valdez, 4-Fabian Balbuena, 3-Gustavo Gomez, 13-Junior Alonso; 16-Cristian Riveros (6-Richard Ortiz, 65), 8-Rodrigo Rojas (10-Derlis Gonzalez, 83), 21-Oscar Romero (19-Cecilio Dominguez, 80), 7-Nestor Camacho (17-Hernan Perez, 54), 23-Miguel Almiron; 9-Federico Santander
Substitutes not used: 12-Alfredo Aguilar, 2-Juan Patiño, 11-Angel Romero, 14-Luis de la Cruz, 15-Richard Sanchez, 18-Roberto Ovelar
Head coach: Gustavo E. Morinigo

Stats Summary: USA / PAR
Shots: 6 / 11
Shots on Goal: 3 / 3
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 15 / 19
Offside: 5 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
PAR – Roberto Fernandez (caution) 44th minute
PAR – Junior Alonso (caution) 53
PAR – Rodrigo Rojas (caution) 56
USA – DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 62
USA – Cameron Carter-Vickers (caution) 81
PAR – Federico Santander (caution) 90
PAR – Richard Ortiz (caution) 90+1

 

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It is three weeks in now and MLS season 23 is beginning to get its legs under itself. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s still too early to draw many conclusions but there are still some things to discuss. Like how about this for starters!

1) IBRA to LA!

It has been talked about for what feels like forever and now Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl is reporting that the wait is finally over and that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is winging his way to L.A. to become the latest star to join the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Ibrahimovic looks set to join the Galaxy.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

According to the SI report, the Galaxy has gotten themselves quite a financial deal in freeing the Swiss legend from Manchester United bench, with Ibra agreeing to a two-year deal worth just $3 million.

Zlatan hasn’t played much since returning to the United panel after recovering from a serious injury but it is not too difficult to imagine the showman that is ZLATAN! pulling out all the stops and finishing his career on a high note amidst the glamor of Tinseltown.

2) A Bridge Too VAR?

Clint Dempsey and all of his Seattle Sounders teammates coaches, fans, etc would certainly say yes, enough with the VAR.

Dempsey saw red. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

Dempsey saw red in the 37th minute of Seattle’s 3-0 loss to FC Dallas on the weekend, with the Video Assistant Referee called into play to lend a hand to chief whistler, Chris Penso.

The camera angles weren’t perfect but it seemed like a righteous red from my easy chair.

Less clear in my mind was the red dished out to Vancouver center back Kendall Waston in Vancouver’s 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Atlanta. Waston was called for a penalty and that red card in the 13th minute for a perceived infringement against Leonardo Gonzalez Perez.

To me, it looked like Gonzalez Perez initiated the contact and there should not have been a red or a foul but the referee and his pal VAR thought otherwise.

3) Toronto winless?! WT…H

Greg Vanney’s team has a heavier schedule due to their successful cup run. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

The league’s star-studded standard bearers, coming off perhaps the best season in league history, are 0-2. Which is surprising. But remember, that is just in league play. Greg Vanney’s team is fighting a battle on two fronts and the outlook is decidedly rosier on that second front, the Concacaf Champions League, where TFC has joined the New York Red Bulls as semifinalists in the North American version of the Champions League.

4) And NYCFC Makes 3

3-0-0, to put it more precisely. NYCFC entered its St Patrick’s Day showdown with ex-coach Jason Kreis and fellow Class of ‘15 members Orlando as one of four MLS sides sporting a perfect 2-0-0 record. By the end of the weekend, Columbus had drawn 0-0 at Philadelphia, Vancouver had been spanked 4-1 in Atlanta, while LAFC stood pat with a bye.

David Villa’s absence has had a negative impact on NYCFC’s attack. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

NYCFC had to make do without David Villa and the attack struggled in his absence. But the defense stood firm and a pair of opportunistic goals would be too much for Kreis and his Orlando strugglers who fell to 0-2-1.

5) The Old Lady to Take on the Best of MLS

Despite the recent partnership announced between MLS and Liga MX Major League Soccer will play at least one more foreign superclub in its annual All-Star match when Italian giants Juventus come to Atlanta this summer, putting the MLS vs Liga MX battle aside for now.

Buffon & Co will grace the MLS fields. (ISI Photos/Mark Lawrence)

It will be a chance for MLS supporters see the greats of the Italian league up close and personal, including goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon, star attackers Paulo Dybala, and Gonzalo Higuain, and defender extraordinaire Giorgio Chiellini.

And it will be a special treat to see Higuain face off against his brother, Federico, the playmaking wizard of the Columbus Crew.

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Cordeiro and Fellow Co-Chairs Discuss United World Cup Bid
Cordeiro and Fellow Co-Chairs Discuss United World Cup Bid avatar

With the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup firmly in FIFA’s hands, the bids were due last Friday, the Presidents of the U.S Soccer, the Mexico Football Federation, and Canada Soccer spoke to the media via conference call Monday from Kuala Lumpur.

Carlos Cordeiro

The three Presidents, Carlos Cordeiro, U.S., Decio De Maria, Mexico, and Steven Reed, Canada, traveled to the Malaysian capital in an effort to persuade the members of the Asian Football Confederation to cast its lot with what is known as the United Bid over that of its only competitor, Morocco.

As described by the trio of Presidents, the United Bid features three pillars, Unity, Certainty, and Opportunity. In the groups opening remarks Reed discussed unity, DeMaria tackled certainty, and Cordeiro finishing up by describing the opportunity to host the World Cup in North America in 2016 as a chance to “throw the biggest party the world has ever seen.”

Cordeiro also stated that the United Bid members, “see the opportunity for record revenues.” “We anticipate sold out stadiums for every match,” the U.S. Soccer President continued, with “an expected 9.8 tickets sold with ticketing revenues of more than $2.1 billion,” which Cordeiro called a new record.

It was all very positive but with Sports Illustrated’s recent article suggesting that the United Bid was in real jeopardy of losing out to Morocco along with disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s endorsement of the Moroccan bid- remember, this is FIFA- the first question went to Cordeiro and it concerned the chance that anti-American feelings could cost the group the World Cup.

Cordeiro wasn’t buying it, saying “we believe strongly that this decision will be made on its merits,” expressing confidence that group’s submission, “on its merits will be seen to be a superlative bid.”

“This is not geopolitics, we’re talking about football,” Cordeiro replied when asked if U.S. decisions made by the Trump administration had sparked a “backlash.” “We’ve had no backlash.”

The Presidential Triad recently took the lead of the United Bid when the presidents were named as co-chairs of the bid committee, moving longtime U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati aside in the effort to bring the World Cup back to the continent for the first time since U.S. 1994.

The world cup (ISI Photos/Ben Queenborough)

Was that move made to push the “united” nature of the bid to the forefront in hopes of quelling any perception that the U.S. was the dominant partner with Gulati at its head?

Noting that he had just been elected as President of the U.S. federation in February, Cordeiro said: “it was natural that you would expect me, as the new president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, to take responsibility for our share of the bid and that is why I stepped up to the plate.” Cordeiro also pointed out that although the three were together in Kuala Lumpur they would more often be traveling separately as they chased down support. “Divide and conquer, right?” Cordeiro asked. “Isn’t that the saying.”

The U.S. Soccer President was backed by his co-Chairmen with De Maria saying colorfully, “we are nothing more than three guys representing three institutions, reaching for an objective,” while Canada’s Reed, pointed out that the three, “don’t really dwell on titles.” “We are three co-chairs at the present but we’ve always been together in terms of trying to achieve this common agenda.”

Unity, certainty, and opportunity. Will it be enough? We must wait until June 13, one day before the World Cup gets underway. In the meantime, the three co-chairmen will be seeing the world.

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Still No Coach or GM – So Sarachan Names Young Roster to Face Paraguay
Still No Coach or GM – So Sarachan Names Young Roster to Face Paraguay avatar

With no World Cup positional battles to sort out and no job security issues to concern him, interim USMNT coach Dave Sarachan passed over mainstays from Michael Bradley to Christian Pulisic in favor of a young, inexperienced squad to face Paraguay in Cary, North Carolina on March 27.

This callow crew has an average age of just over 23 years old, so it is no surprise that the roster features five first time call-ups, with that quintet among the more interesting prospects in the group.

Weah in action for the U17’s. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Previously best known as the son of George Weah, the current President of Liberia and the former World Player of the Year, 18-year-old attacker Tim Weah recently made his senior debut for French super club Paris Saint-Germain after impressing for the U.S. at the U17 World Cup.

Another to make his European club debut of late is former U.S. U20 captain Erik Palmer-Brown who began his career with Belgian side KV Kortrijk, following a loan from Manchester City, who signed the center back from his home club of Sporting KC.

Antonee Robinson is another young player who has gone on loan to seek the first-team action, in his case the English born and raised 20 year old went from Everton to English Championship side Bolton, where he has seen regular minutes at a perennial position of need for the U.S., left fullback.

Another fullback to get his first call to the full national team squad is Shaq Moore, who made his La Liga debut for Levante in September, even earning a start against Barcelona. With competitors returning from injury, Moore has not seen much action of late for Levante, so this call-up comes at a good time for the 21-year-old.

The least known of the five is 6’4” striker Andrija Novakovich. The 21-year-old Wisconsin native signed on with English Championship club Reading in 2014 but has only recently hit his stride with a loan to Dutch second division side SC Telstar. Novakovich’s total of 18 goals is second in the Eerste Divisie, reason enough to bring the lanky striker in for a closer look.

Kenny Saief gets another chance to impress. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Though no longer a debutante Israeli-American Kenny Saief returns to the U.S. fold after picking up an injury in his U.S. bow at last summer’s Gold Cup. After switching allegiances from the Israeli national team Saief was injured in his Gold Cup debut last summer. Now after impressing this season for Anderlecht, the intriguing midfielder gets another chance to impress, well, I’m not sure who this group needs to impress.

WIth no permanent coach and no General Manager yet on board this young group will just have to go and do its job and let the chips fall where they may.

UPDATED U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 5/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 1/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich Town/ENG; 1/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 14/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 4/1), Shaq Moore (Levante/ESP; 0/0), Erik Palmer-Brown (Kortrijk/BEL; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers/ENG; 0/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 15/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 49/0)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Kekuta Manneh (Pachuca/MEX; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 1/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC; 24/1), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 2/0), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 1/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 3/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 0/0)

FORWARDS (3): Andrija Novakovich (Telstar/NED; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana/MEX; 4/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 36/10)

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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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