Who: NYCFC vs San Jose Earthquakes
When: Saturday, September 14th @ 12:30 pm ET
Line: NYCFC -107 | Draw +275 | San Jose+255
Two teams and two coaches on a redemption arc meet Saturday evening in the Bronx when Dome Torrent’s New York City FC play host to Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes.
With NYC sitting atop the Eastern Conference and San Jose in fifth place, just two points behind second-place Real Salt Lake in the West, it may be difficult to remember the doubts surrounding both coaches when their respective team’s struggled early in the season.
Almeyda arrived in San Jose as one of the big off-season catches in all of MLS. Arriving directly from Chivas de Guadalajara, where he collected five trophies in his three seasons, landing the Argentine was seen as raising the bar on MLS coaching hires.
Then the season began with the Quakes losing five in a row out of the gate by a combined score of 14-2. The run included a 4-1 road loss to the New York Red Bulls and a 5-0 home humbling at the hands of LAFC.
Observers wondered if his new team would ever master Almeyda’s unique man to man marking system and the old doubts about foreign coaches succeeding in MLS (Tata Martino excepted) began to emerge.
Meanwhile, on the league’s opposite coast, NYCFC began the season with a spate of draws, sharing the points an astounding eight times against four wins and just one loss in its first 13 outings.
The NYC head coach confirmed the notion when he told NYCFC radio man Glenn Crooks that, “Right now I am in trouble as a head coach – I know and I have to accept that.”
Two programs on the rise
Both men would turn it around. They come into Saturday’s match with much to play for.
As mentioned, The Quakes are in the thick of it in a Western Conference that is packed tightly behind runaway league-leading LAFC. Any of the teams from second to eighth are still capable of a top-four finish (securing a home playoff game), while missing out on the postseason is still a possibility.
For the home team, the playoffs are a certainty. Positioning, a little less so. Torrent would love to lead NYC to its first Eastern crown, which comes with home-field advantage for as long as they go before possibly facing Bob Bradley’s juggernaut.
San Jose will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing midweek loss to division rivals Real Salt Lake. NYC will try to get back in the win column after a 1-1 draw with Toronto snapped the Cityzens five-game winning streak.
NYCFC vs San Jose Preview
New York will have to contain a San Jose attack that is led by a rejuvenated ChrisWondolowski. Wondo passed Landon Donovan as the all-time MLS leader in goals scored earlier in the campaign and has racked up 13 on the season.
Wondo is surrounded by some useful players like team assist leader Christan Espinoza (13 helpers), Vako (8 goals), Magnus Eriksson (6 goals and 8 assists) and U.S. international Jackson Yueill.
The 22-year-old Yueill is one player who has clearly benefited from Almeyda’s tutelage. The young midfielder was an afterthought in previous seasons before blossoming under Almeyda to the point that he has earned a look with the U.S. National Team.
Tommy Thomson is another young American that has flourished under new San Jose boss, earning regular time at fullback after struggling for minutes as a winger under previous coaches.
With the International break out of the way, NYC should be prepared for what San Jose has to throw at them. It was a makeshift side that Torrent sent out against Toronto and the 1-1 draw was a decent result, preserved by a fine Sean Johnson penalty save, Johnson having been released early by the USMNT.
NYC is still without striker Heber, the Brazilian that turned NYC’s season around after his April arrival but talisman Maxi Moralez will be back after missing out against TFC due to yellow card accumulation and his return should be enough to spark NYCFC to a home victory.
Where to Bet NYCFC in the US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Who: USMNT vs Mexico
When: Friday, September 6th at 8:30pm ET
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
Line: USMNT +210 | Draw +240 | Mexico +130
Florham Park, NJ – USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s Sergino Dest Appreciation Tour continued with Thursday afternoon’s announcement that the Dutch-born U.S. dual national will start tonight’s rivalry match at MetLife Stadium versus Mexico.
Berhalter’s reveal was the biggest news to emerge from his press conference. It continues the USMNT’s wooing of Dest, whose impressive play for Ajax has prompted concerns of a Dutch swoop.
Communication is key in keeping Dest
Asked about Dest and about dual nationals in general, Berhalter said on Thursday, “It’s about communicating with these players and then creating an environment that they want to be in. I think that’s important.”
Berhalter was wise to stress communication, given the criticism U.S. Soccer has faced over losing the likes of Jonathan Gonzalez, who faulted U.S. coaches and staffers for not keeping in contact with him before switching his international allegiance to Mexico.
Berhalter then narrowed his focus to Dest. “Sergino is here, he’s doing great in camp, he’s going to play, he’s going to start the game tomorrow.” The revelation came as a surprise and it was notable that the coach gave no other hints regarding the U.S. lineup.
Berhalter continued, emphasizing Dest’s U.S. connections:
“It’s a great opportunity for us to forget about the dual national part of it just to, you know, to give a player who’s been in our youth national team program, who’s played strong in the under 20 World Cup, who’s now broken in with the first team of Ajax, to give him an opportunity with the first team.”
Getting Dest cap-tied
From there, Berhalter continued to play down his and U.S. Soccer’s pursuit of Dest. The upcoming Ajax star can be cap tied at next month’s CONCACAF Nations League. Berhalter said, “I think that’s what, that’s what’s nice about this story, you know, it’s not about, to me the dual nationalism of him. It’s about, he’s come from our programming, and he’s performed well, and he’s really achieved something in this short period of this short month at Ajax, and it’s nice to be able to reward that.”
Berhalter’s remarks on Thursday are consistent with his evaluation of Dest in a conference call with U.S. Soccer media just eight days ago. Then the U.S. coach made his enthusiasm for the Ajax man clear.
“Sergino is a guy we’ve been tracking, we’ve been watching his progress with Ajax, making his way up to the first team. We’re excited about him. We’re excited he can play both wing-back positions, he has a good offensive skill set. He fits into the profile we’re looking for in our fullbacks. We’ve been really intrigued with how he’s been playing in Ajax.”
Berhalter also praised the 18-year old’s cerebral ability saying, “I really like how he interprets it (the game).”
Dest fits a glaring need for the USMNT squad
Part of what Berhalter likes so much about Dest is that ability to play on either flank. Dest made little of the difference at Wednesday’s round table press meetings saying with a shrug, “for me it doesn’t matter.” Asked which he preferred, Dest again replied simply, “it doesn’t matter.”
Given the problem that the USMNT has had in filling the left fullback role over the years, it is no surprise that Berhalter is excited about Dest. However, Dest seems better suited to the right side in Berhalter’s system, which often features a stay at home fullback on the left paired with a right-sided fullback that tucks in and plays centrally in an attacking role when the U.S. is in possession.
Wherever Dest lines out at MetLife Stadium, the prospect of facing Mexico is unlikely to phase him.
And there is this, Dest’s reaction on Wednesday to facing the USMNT’s biggest rival. “Yeah, I’m looking forward because it’s a rival for the U.S. And at the CONCACAF (U20) that was like, my first time against Mexico. And yeah, so as soon as I’ve heard it’s the rival of the U.S., I always want to be there. So yeah, I hope I can play.”
Tonight Dest will get that chance. Will it be enough to sway the dynamic fullback to choose the U.S. over the Netherlands?
Who: USMNT vs Mexico
When: Friday, September 6th at 8:30pm ET
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
Line: USMNT +210 | Draw +240 | Mexico +130
Short Hills, NJ – “I keep the options open,” said Sergino Dest. And with that honest answer to a far from simple question. Sergino Dest sent all of the U.S. Soccer loving world into a panic.
But is the US Soccer loving world ready for him and Josh Sargent?
Is Dest the best American defensive prospect?
The exciting 18-year-old Ajax first-teamer, UEFA Champions League competitor, and U.S/Netherlands dual national wasn’t trying to send all of the U.S. soccer-loving world into a panic, but he did. When you’re eligible to play for the country you were born and raised in, i.e. the Netherlands, your every utterance raises that possibility.
Dest is a lightning-quick fullback equally comfortable on the left or the right. He’s eminently dangerous in attack and steadily improving defensively. Although English is not his native language, Dest did his best to explain that yes, the Dutch Federation contacted him, though fortunately, perhaps for U.S. hopes, that contact, “was not like the first team yet. It was like the under 23s. And they want to have a meeting with me.”
I keep the options open.
The U.S. can cap tie Dest at next month’s CONCACAF Nations League. Again Dest was noncommital about the prospects of this, saying, “I can’t make that decision.”
But all is not lost for American soccer. Dest is eligible for the U.S. through his father, Kenneth, and has been a regular member of youth teams for the U.S., including the U17 and U20 World Cups.
And Dest doesn’t underestimate that experience. “I say [playing for the U.S. youth teams is] a big opportunity. And I’m also like, proud to play for them. And for me, they give me a lot of chances when I was younger. So I respect that.”
Asked how his family feels about Dest lining out for the U.S., Dest said, “Yeah, my whole family’s proud of me. I’m the first real soccer player in the family. Like everybody supporting me.” Dest expects his father and his Uncle John to be friendly faces in what will be a largely pro-Mexico crowd Friday at MetLife Stadium.
After being passed over, Josh Sargent ready for his moment
Another young player on the rise for the USMNT is striker Josh Sargent, who made the highlight reels with his first goal of the season for Werder Bremen in a 3-2 win over Augsburg this past Sunday.
Sargent was passed over by Berhalter for the Gold Cup squad. The timing of that decision raised eyebrows, as it also ruled the 19-year-old out of the U20 World Cup.
Sitting with a group of reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Sargent’s candor was admirable as he recounted his feelings regarding the summer snub.
“I think it took a few days for me to really calm down about the situation,” Sargent told reporters. “But like I said, when I had the time to think about it, you know, I was able to be with my club, the whole preseason. And it was a very good opportunity for myself. And I thought I did a good job with that. And now I’m in a very happy place with myself and with my football now what’s going on, so looking to build off of that here at this camp.”
Sargent stressed that any bad feelings he may have had have been put aside. “Of course I was upset right after the Gold Cup. But you know, there’s no hard feelings, it’s football.”
Sargent used that time wisely and had a productive preseason, only to find himself on the bench for Bremen’s first couple of matches. Then a start versus Augsburg resulted in a wonder goal when Sargent flipped the ball over the keeper’s head before rounding the hapless custodian and finishing in superb style.
The man known as the Red Menace smiled when High Press Soccer brought up his first goal of 2019. Sargent is still clearly relishing it, as do his teammates. “They’re all very happy for me. And it’s a great, great group of guys in the locker room. And that was, I think, not just the goal, or how I scored it. But the goal itself was very good for myself. Moving on to these next games, and it’s given me good confidence. So I feel great.”
Following up, HPS asked Sargent about his decision to pursue his career in Germany, and would he recommend it despite a tough first season, where he struggled for playing time.
“I think it’s really based on the person themselves, how they feel. I mean, it’s a different situation for every player. So whatever they feel most comfortable with, and whatever they think will challenge themselves. I think that they’ll go with that.”
Sargent was asked how he dealt with that bench time. “Yeah, with the youth teams and growing up, I was always used to, you know, being one of the best players, always being one of the coaches’ favorite. So to go on the opposite side of that, it was pretty tough.”
Sargent noted, “My confidence kind of hurt a little bit. So over the summer, I was able to relax. And at the beginning of this season, kind of get that back. So I feel good now.”
Who: USMNT vs Mexico
When: Friday, September 6th at 8:30pm ET
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
Line: USMNT +210 | Draw +240 | Mexico +130
Short Hills, NJ – Missing out on the 2018 World Cup was a serious blow to the USMNT leading to the resignations of coach Bruce Arena and President of US Soccer Sunil Gulati. Players weren’t spared the house cleaning, either. First interim boss Dave Sarachan pushed veterans aside while he blooded numerous newcomers in his year in charge before yielding to “permanent” coach Gregg Berhalter. Now, Berhalter has elected to play the kids in a pair of friendlies versus Mexico and Uruguay over the FIFA International Break.
Wednesday afternoon in a roundtable setting, High Press Soccer was among the small group of reporters that spoke to three of the young veterans that are set to lead this team in the present and into the future.
Pulisic, McKennie, Steffan and Adams are the present and the future
RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams remains sidelined with a stubborn injury, leaving it to Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Zack Steffan to represent the “future is now” contingent.
Any discussion of the USMNT starts with the young man from Hershey, Pennsylvania, Christian Pulisic. The $73 million dollar man was asked about Mexico, who defeated the U.S in the Gold Cup final 1-0, Chelsea, and his adjustment to the English Premier League.
“Yeah, we’re taking it very seriously” Pulisic began. Referencing the Gold Cup Final defeat, the 20-year-old attacker said it was “obviously a disappointment. You know, a tough one in the final wanting to win that one bad. But the best thing is, we have a chance second chance now. So we’re excited for it doesn’t matter that it’s a friendly.”
“Incredible” Premier League a “challenge” for Pulisic
Words can tell part of the story of Pulisic’s delight at joining Chelsea and playing in the Premier League and here are some from the man himself.
“It’s amazing,” Pulisic volunteered. “I mean, it’s everything I hoped it would be and more so, it’s incredible.” “It’s been great learning, you know, under [new manager Frank Lampard],” Pulisic went on. “And playing with top players and in the Premier League, it’s, it’s incredible. I’m still I’m still learning a lot. And I have a long way to go. But it’s been great so far.”
The rest of the story was told by the ear to ear grin that was plastered across the face of U.S. men’s soccer.
Asked about his adjustment to the English League, Pulisic had this to say. “I mean, it’s not like a huge difference or something that you really notice but it’s great man. The speed. It’s very intense. The games are very intense. Every single game I’ve played so far has been had a new challenge. And I mean, it’s, it’s great. And I’m learning a lot.”
It was noted that Pulisic signed for Chelsea when Maurizo Sarri was the manager, but since then former Chelsea (and New York City FC) star Frank Lampard has taken over at Stamford Bridge. Pulisic was asked about playing for the younger Lampard.
“Yeah, I mean, it worked out really well for sure. Frank’s a great guy, and he’s helped me so much and he understands you know, where I’m coming from. And yeah, he’s been really, really good job and helped me, teaching us, especially, a lot of the younger guys on the team and also mixing in well with some of the more experienced guys and it’s been a pleasure to work with him and to play with this team. It’s been it’s been amazing.” – Pulisic on Lampard’s influence
Who you got: Pulisic or Lozano?
With Chelsea discussed, one of the Mexican journalists on hand asked Pulisic about the debate raging in Mexico: Who is better — Pulisic or 24 year-old El Tri star Hirving “Chucky” Lozano — who recently transferred from Ajax to Napoli?
Pulisic demurred, saying Lozano is a fine player, although he was unaware of the debate. When asked more bluntly by a second Mexican journalist, “Who is better you are Chucky” Pulisic brought the house down when he said, “I’m not gonna give you like an Ibra answer,” before adding more seriously, “but obviously, I’m very confident in myself.”
McKennie still adjusting to Bundesliga
Weston McKennie followed Pulisic’s path to Germany, joining Schalke 04. Like Pulisic, McKennie quickly made his way to regular first team action. Also like Pulisic, McKennie has become a centerpiece with the USMNT.
Recently turned 21, McKennie is more outgoing than his former youth national teammate and has emerged a leader for club and country despite his young age.
Three games into the new Bundesliga season, McKennie and his Schalke club are still adjusting to a new coach, former U.S. international David Wagner. Although Wagner is German-born and raised, McKennie said of his relationship with his new boss, “it’s always good whenever you have a coach that has been through it himself, because it’s more relateable.”
“Honestly,” McKennie added, “you guys may not believe it but me and him, we don’t speak in English. We’re speaking German. Which I was also surprised to find that out, too. But, he’s real big on making sure everyone knows German.”
Not that McKennie objects. “I think it is right to do. We play in Germany, live in Germany.” That is not to say that the American connection doesn’t come into play. “Being able to connect to him on a more personal level, you know, whenever I speak about things that are in America, he knows what I’m talking about. So I think that’s also good.”
Positional stability would also be good for the versatile McKennie, who was played all over the field by the previous regime at Schalke. Does McKennie feel that Wagner will let him find a spot and stay put?
“I definitely hope so,” was McKennie immediate response. “I think we’re on the same page when it comes to that. I think he sees me as a midfielder, you know, six, eight, or 10, one of the three, not a right back or forward or left wing. So, I think he also realized that I’m best when I’m in that position. And that’s whenever I feel like I can bring something to the table.”
Steffen also cutting his teeth in Germany
No team can succeed without a top-class goalkeeper and if the start of the Bundesliga season is anything to go by, the USMNT is set both now and well into the future with 24-year-old Zack Steffen between the pipes.
Steffen failed to settle during his first stint in Germany, where he signed with Freiburg after his sophomore season at the University of Maryland. Returning to the U.S, Steffen eventually took over the number one job with the Columbus Crew, earning a MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award and catching the eye of Premier League champions Manchester City.
After signing with City, Steffen was loaned to Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf and this time around things have gone better for the talented keeper. Helping smooth the way for Steffen’s second stint in Germany was USMNT and Dusseldorf teammate Alfredo Morales, who reached out to Steffen during the off-season.
“He and I really kind of bonded since me being over there. So it’s great to have another familiar face over here,” Steffen noted.
“It was really nice of him to reach out to me,” Steffen noted. “I was on vacation when he did and it brought a smile to my face just because to have some familiarity over there already because everything’s new, it was great and definitely lucky to have him over there.”
A more mature Steffen has certainly looked the part on the pitch, earning Man of the Match honors in Dusseldorf’s season-opening 3-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.
Steffen feels that the Gold Cup was “a really good stepping stone for this U.S. team.” He explained, “For a lot of us, that was our first senior tournament that we were really thrown into, so we played against some good teams. And we had some games where we thought we could have played better could have been more composed on the ball and could have worked together more, and then we had some games that we played well.”
Things have started out well for Steffen in his Bundesliga reprise, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. number one has given up on Man City. “Yeah, my goal is obviously is to play for City, get back to City and compete there for a spot. I have those goals, but at the same time I take it day-by-day and week-by-week and try and progress and get better. Playing the games and executing my role and then learn from the guys on my team and my coaches and that process one day will hopefully get me to City.”
When: Friday, September 6th at 8:30pm ET
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
Line: USMNT +210 | Draw +240 | Mexico +130
Whippany, NJ – Gregg Berhalter, his staff, USSoccer functionaries, and a 26 player USMNT roster assembled Tuesday afternoon in New Jersey to begin preparations for Friday’s friendly with Mexico.
Just a little over one month ago, the two nations faced off in the Gold Cup final with Mexico claiming the spoils thanks to a 73rd-minute goal from Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos.
And while the powers that be may prefer to play down the “revenge game” angle, Reggie Cannon, a breakout star for the U.S. at the 2019 Gold Cup, did not shy away from that designation when he spoke to a small group of reporters yesterday.
“Facing Mexico yet again yeah; it’s gonna be a revenge match,” was the FC Dallas fullback’s frank assessment of Friday’s match at Red Bull Arena.
“We’re all super excited to play this game,” Cannon relayed, “and you know, I think the team coming out here, you could sense that, that feeling of, you know what we’re going to go out there and getting it done. We were so close, you know, we could taste it, and after that game, we’re all disappointed in ourselves and the team and the way we played. We’re going to come back out and have that fire and that hunger again this time the summer is gonna be different.”
Still, the 21-year-old wasn’t sweating it, even finding time to joke with the press about wearing his jersey backward on what was a perfect day for training in Whippany, New Jersey.
Cannon, Robinson among a group of youngsters ready to shine
Coming into the Gold Cup, Cannon had become something of a forgotten man for the U.S. He earned a call for the first competitive matches of coach Gregg Berhalter’s National Team tenure only after Tyler Adams was forced to withdraw through injury.
Cannon appreciates the strides he made in the Gold Cup. He handed a large portion of the credit to the coach who originally snubbed him, Gregg Berhalter. “I think the difference is that set of confidence Greg instilled in me, the confidence that I needed to kind of make that Gold Cup run.”
Cannon still sounds just a bit surprised by his rapid ascent up the USMNT ladder. “You know, from being the last guy called into camp to playing the Gold Cup final against Mexico, one of the biggest -the biggest game of my life. I think that’s super important coming into these games. Greg continually gives me confidence.”
With the pressure of the Gold Cup absent from this two-game set versus Mexico and Uruguay, and with perhaps one eye on next month’s CONCACAF Nations League, Berhalter has called in a young group.
Cannon acknowledged as much, “Yeah, the average age, it’s pretty young for this camp. And I think Greg’s really trying to get people situated and get into the concept of national team, you know, people have different paths, different timelines, but you just come in and the youth wave for us to coming.”
Part of that “youth wave” is Atlanta United center-back, Miles Robinson. In a conference call last week, Berhalter said of Robinson that “form pushed [him] into the team.”
So, what role can we expect Robinson to play for the national team?
Robinson did not seem too sure when High Press Soccer grabbed him for a quick 1 on 1 chat on Tuesday. The 22-year-old said, “…just trying to be out here, competing, play hard and know the experience, get to understand the guys and stuff like that.”
If Robinson sounds delighted to be here that is because he is.
“Gregg called me saying how do you feel about being in the camp and all that. So it’s pretty awesome.”
Although a newcomer to the full national team, Robinson is well aware of the importance of the USA/Mexico rivalry. “Yeah, definitely,” the Atlanta defender told High Press Soccer. “It’s an honor to be out here with the guys and now representing the country and it should be a good one.”
“And,” Robinson concluded, “I think the guys are ready.”
Where to Bet USMNT vs Mexico in the US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Harrison, NJ – Tim Howard’s New Jersey swan song could not have gone much better. The USMNT legend backstopped a young Colorado Rapids team to a 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls Saturday night in his home state of New Jersey.
Howard began his professional career nine miles up the road from Red Bull Arena at what was then called Giants Stadium for the team then known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Now with just a handful of games remaining in his brilliant career, High Press Soccer asked Howard if he found himself looking to the finish line or if he can still take it one game at a time?
“Both,” Howard answered. “I’m cognizant of the finish line.”
However, the long-time Everton keeper acknowledged that this year is different. “Every season has ended. The hard part is when it doesn’t begin again. I’ve had 22 seasons that have begun and finished, and this one will finish too, so that won’t be any different.”
“Next March, it’ll be quite difficult, but right now I’m cherishing every moment.”
New Rapids coach Fraser weighs in on Howard’s impact
Managing the Rapids for the first time, Robin Fraser was thrilled to claim all three points. Although he has just taken over the 11th place Rapids, High Press Soccer asked Fraser what an accomplished veteran like Howard means to this young team.
The new boss, a one time Red Bulls assistant, was enthusiastic with his reply. “Just Tim’s personality, it’s one of experience, it’s one of calm.” And the boss said with a laugh, “You can tell that he’s got this, whatever it is, he’s got this.”
On a night when Red Bulls fans showered down chants of “Fire Armas!” and “Armas must go,” New York captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles was gracious enough to give his thoughts on the legend at the far end of the pitch tonight.
“He’s had an incredible career,” Robles began quietly. “He started with the MetroStars and of course he made the jump to England and had 12 or 13 successful seasons in England, countless caps for the national team.” Robles concluded, “he’s really set the bar high and he’s a great example for goalkeepers in the United States.”
Howard effusive about soccer in New Jersey
Howard was asked about how the game has grown since his days, (1998-2003) with the MetroStars and the Jersey Boy was effusive. “This is one of the best places to play soccer,” Howard enthused. “You know its fan base is hungry for success and they’ve been brilliant.”
“They were brilliant when I first started and it’s no different now. But again, New Jersey sports fans are crazy, they want nothing but the best and when they don’t have that it’s hard.”
Showing off his Jersey bonafides, Howard said, “I’m a Knicks fan and a Giants fan, so to wrap that right up, you know it’s not easy.”
Howard came back from England and Everton in 2016, the only year of his MLS career that Colorado has made the playoffs. Given that lack of success on the pitch, and with the clock ticking on his long career, High Press Soccer asked Howard how he feels about his decision to return to MLS and finish up his playing days in Colorado.
“It’s been great,” was Howard’s instant response. “Colorado has become my home. It’s a special club to me,” Howard said. “And obviously, I want to end on a good note, get a couple of more wins to give us something to feel good about.”
Who: New York Red Bulls vs Colorado Rapids
When: Saturday, August 31st @ 07:00 pm ET
Line: New York Red Bulls -250 | Draw +390 | Colorado +600
This Saturday night, the New York Red Bulls will welcome back New Jersey native, former New York/New Jersey MetroStar, and USMNT goalkeeping legend Tim Howard for his final professional match in his home state. This is the first time that Howard has faced his former, rebranded team.
It figures to be an emotional night for Howard and his Jersey-based fans. The home team won’t have much time for sentiment, although a video tribute would be a nice touch.
The Red Bulls are coming off of a disappointing trip to the Bronx that resulted in a 2-1 loss to neighboring New York City FC last Saturday. Sentiment aside, coach Chris Armas and company will be looking to beat up on Howard and his very beatable Colorado Rapids squad.
New York Red Bulls vs Colorado Rapids Match Preview
The Rapids will be playing their first game under new coach Robin Fraser in what is a homecoming of sorts for the former Red Bulls assistant, and ex-Chivas US head coach.
Fraser replaces former interim boss Conor Casey and inherits a team that is 13 points below the playoff line.
Already up against it, Colorado will be missing three starters for this match-up, with club goal-scoring leader Kei Kamara (11), midfielder Kellyn Acosta and defender Lalas Abubakar all suspended. Kamara sits for a straight red card offense and the others for yellow card accumulation in the wake of a madcap 2-0 Rivalry Week loss to Real Salt Lake. That match saw RSL score in the 96th and 99th minutes to earn the Rocky Mountain Cup.
Bouncing back from that disappointment will be no easy task for Colorado and an early test of Fraser’s motivational skills.
Fraser, most recently a Toronto FC assistant, will surely look to the red hot Diego Rubio if his Rapids are to deliver a surprise. Although he was kept off the scoresheet by RSL, Rubio notched a brace in the Rapids August 17th 2-2 draw at Houston. He has scored eight of his team-high nine goals in his previous 11 games.
Like the Raps, the Red Bulls will be looking for a bounce-back performance. However, unlike their guests, New York is very much in the playoff picture. Every point is crucial for NYRB as they attempt to secure a top-four finish and first-round home playoff game.
With young striker Brian White’s status still up in the air, Armas figures to entrust Bradey Wright-Philips with another start.
Midfielder Alex Muyl finally seems healthy again, as his rocketed goal versus NYCFC would attest. The hard working midfielder will likely get another nod from Armas unless the coach prefers to bing Muyl along slowly.
Red Bulls co-leader in goals, Daniel Royer, will get the start, and Armas figures to ride his most dependable player to the finish line.
A pair of players that will play key roles in RBNY’s playoff push are Aaron Long and Kaku. Both players have struggled for form in the wake of transfer rumors (Kaku in the offseason, Long more recently).
Just as important though for the home team are Long’s fellow defenders, center-back Tim Parker and fullback Michael Murillo. Not so long ago, Parker was getting USMNT calls. However, he has struggled this season while Long has become a national team mainstay.
Murillo has been a near-automatic pick not only for the Red Bulls but also for his native Panama. This season Murillo has been an accident waiting to happen though, collecting red cards, penalties etc, for New York to the point where recently signed Rece Buckmaster has become an option for Armas.
Still, if the Red Bulls are to contend beyond one and done this postseason, this is a match that they simply must win. Expect them to step up and collect all three points, souring Howard’s home farewell.
Who: Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 31st @ 10:00 pm ET
Line: Vancouver +320 | Draw +310 | NYCFC -139
Hot on the heels of an impressive Hudson River Derby win over the New York Red Bulls, MLS Coach of the Week Dome Torrent and his NYCFC team fly cross-continent to face the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening.
While New York may complain of jetlag, a la Wayne Rooney, Vancouver should be the more tired of the two sides having made a cross country journey of their own following Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss in Montreal. Brutal.
Rooney may have a point.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC Match Preview
If New York City is to build on that Derby victory it will have to find a way to solve Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, the red hot Canadian international who set an MLS record with 16 saves on Saturday versus San Jose.
Crepeau erased USMNT legend Tony Meola’s mark, with many of his saves of the spectacular variety.
Despite their goalkeeper’s heroics, Vancouver still managed to lose that match 3-1. So Torrent and his charges will be hunting for the full three points.
Due to continued absence through injury of James Sands, Torrent will likely continue with the same four back system that worked so well versus their neighboring Red Bulls last time out. This line-up features Maxime Chanot and partner Alexander Callens centrally with Anton Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita on the flanks.
Minus Sands, that defense may be a bit vulnerable but it can still be an effective group. The fullbacks remain terrors on the wing, and midfielders Alex Ring and Keaton Parks are capable of providing cover defensively while also contributing to the City attack.
That attack is fed by MLS assist leader Maxi Morales; is he still underrated or has the MLS public finally copped on that the diminutive Argentine is one of the best players in the league?
Twin strikers Heber and Vincent Castellanos are a terror upfront and likely too much for the Vancouver defense to contain, even backed by Crepeau.
New York winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has been out for several weeks now and appears close to a return. It may not be in time for Vancouver but ITS provides a goal scoring threat alongside New York’s other weapons and Torrent will welcome his return, whenever that comes.
The Whitecaps have taken a step backward this year, sitting in last place in their first season under Marc Dos Santos. The Caps finished eighth in 2018, just two points out of the playoffs.
Why? Well, Vancouver doesn’t score goals.
Its total of 29 goals is bested, (worsted?) only by Cincinnati’s 27. And to make matters worse, Vancouver doesn’t defend; only three teams have allowed more goals than the 50 that Whitecaps have leaked.
What threat the Caps do possess is largely down to Jordy Reyna, the Peruvian midfielder/forward who has five goals, good for second on the club. He’s just one behind Fredy Montero, who has scored four of his six goals from the penalty spot.
Dos Santos may look to Candian international Tosaint Ricketts for some inspiration up top. The versatile veteran has appeared in only three games this season,and received his first start of the campaign against Montreal Wednesday night, picking up an assist on Reyna’s goal.
22 year-old Korean international and Young Designated Player Inbeom Hwang is an exciting young player that will give New York coach Dome Torrent something to think about as well.
By any and every metric, NYCFC is the better squad. Anything less than a point would be a disappointment. Expect NYCFC’s offense to be too much for Vancouver to contain and for the Pigeons to collect all three points.
Ahead of a pair high profile and highly challenging friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter released his 26 man roster today. The US manager followed up the release with a phone press conference.
Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, and a returning John Brooks headline the squad.
In selecting this roster, Berhalter had to balance Major League Soccer’s policy of playing through the international break. The former Columbus Crew boss made it clear that he is none too pleased with the situation, saying he’s “disappointed with MLS choosing to play in the FIFA window.”
Berhalter noted that he did not call in Toronto threesome Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez because TFC is facing two matches during the international break. That second Toronto match seemed to govern Berhalter’s decision to leave the TFC players behind while selecting several other MLS players with conflicts. For example, NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson will miss the team’s September 7th match versus New England.
Berhalter was also asked to clarify the Darlington Nagbe situation. Or more specifically: did the Atlanta midfielder turn down an opportunity to be included in this roster as well as the Gold Cup squad?
After speaking of his admiration for Nagbe as a player, the coach turned Artful Dodger for this one. Berhalter declined to reveal the details of private conversations, while also speaking broadly on the subject of any player’s dedication to the team.
While stressing that he was not speaking about Nagbe, Berhalter noted “that he (Berhalter) is not the type of guy that says you’re done,” meaning that Nagbe or any player could be welcomed back into the team, because he takes, “every case on an individual basis.”
So, who did Berhalter select? Front and center are young guns Josh Sargent, Sergino Dest of Ajax, and Paxton Pomykal of FC Dallas. The latter pair were teammates on the recent U.S. U20 World Cup team that impressed in getting to the quarterfinal before falling to Ecuador 2-1.
Sargent impressed for Werder Bremen in the preseason but has struggled for playing time once the Bundesliga campaign began. Berhalter is hoping that Sargent can recapture some of the preseason momentum.
Pomykal has had a breakout season for FCD while Dest has been seeing time at both fullback positions for the 2018 Champions League semifinalists in the Eredivisie.
From the sound of Berhalter’s remarks, Dest is the more likely of the two to see the field over the two friendlies. The coach expressed a willingness to play the Dutch/American on either flank, as Ajax have done. That versatility may make it easier to get the 18 year-old on the pitch, with Berhalter saying he is, “really intrigued by how he (Dest) sees the game.”
As for Pomykal, the coach made it sound as though the Dallas man was in for a look-see, saying he wants to see, “how he (Pomykal) copes with the demands of the national team setup.”
Another young player to get a look is Miles Robinson, the Atlanta center back of whom Berhalter says, “form pushed [him] into the team.”
Not as young, but in the same boat as Robinson is 29 year-old Alfredo Morales of Fortuna Dusseldorf. Of Morales, Berhalter said, “I feel really good about calling in a guy that’s playing really well for his team.”
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 60/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 15/0)
DEFENDERS (9): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 37/3), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 6/0), Sergiño Dest (Ajax/NED; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 7/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 11/2), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 8/0),) Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 35/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 10/2)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 9/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 14/3), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 13/0), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 15/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 19/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 1/0)
FORWARDS (6): Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 3/0), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas/TUR; 5/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 33/5), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 31/13), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 7/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 51/10)
Who: DC United vs Columbus Crew
When: Wednesday, August 21st @ 7:00 pm ET
Line: DCU +143 | Draw +255 | New York Red Bulls +170
DC sits fourth in the Eastern Conference, one position and one slim point ahead of their fellow MLS originals. However, DCU has played one additional match. New York has had a stuttering season, where they just cannot seem to put it all together.
There is, of course, a lot going on with Ben Olsen’s DC side. There is the Wayne Rooney to Derby drama. There’s the ongoing, where and when is Lucho Acosta going saga. And now Ola Kamara has been acquired and he needs to play.
Kamara just returned from an unproductive stint, goal-wise, in China. He has been a force in his MLS career, scoring 48 goals in 90 MLS appearances for Columbus and the LA Galaxy. The Norwegian striker made a 16-minute debut off of the bench in United’s 1-0 loss Saturday night in Vancouver.
Olsen left Acosta on the bench from the beginning but we can expect to see the dynamic attacker, who put in a 32-minute shift versus Vancouver, from the start on Wednesday.
And anyone wondering if Rooney is playing with one eye on Derby got their answer Saturday. Rooney blasted the officials on the sideline when he was subbed out of the match, and again later on Twitter.
Meanwhile, DC has added former Red Bulls stalworth Felipe to fill a gap in the center of the park, caused by the absences of defensive midfielder Russell Canouse and his expected replacement Chris Durkin.
Felipe figures to be a good fit, even if United fans have never been overly fond of the combative midfielder, going back to his Red Bull days.
NYRB Preview vs DC United
New York continues to attempt to right its defense, a struggle only exasperated by a transfer saga of its own involving 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long. Long was “unsettled” as they say in the British tabloids by a series of offers from West Ham that his New York employers rejected as insufficient.
Long and his defensive mates hadn’t been quite as sharp this season as in 2018. Now with the playoff stretch coming, New York coach Chris Armas will be looking for his defense to solidify in front of goalkeeper Luis Robles.
That defense suffered a let down when it couldn’t protect a 1-0 lead Saturday night at home to resurgent New England. Of course, Armas might have expected more from his attack, which was unable to add to Marc Rzatkowski’s 18th-minute opener.
New York’s attack was hampered by the 29th-minute loss through injury of forward Brian White. White was tabbed to phase in as the replacement to Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Ironically, BWP now has to pick up the slack for the previously unheralded White, who leads the Red Bulls with nine goals this season. Armas will need count on Wright-Phillips to play starter minutes and to lead the line if New York is to have any hope of ending its MLS Cup drought.
Oddsmakers view this as an even match-up for the Red Bulls, even though it’s at DC. Rooney and co. are only slight favorites, +143 to NYRB’s +170.
Who: NYCFC vs Columbus Crew
When: Wednesday, August 21st @ 7:00 pm ET
Line: NYCFC -186 | Draw +330 | Columbus Crew +450
Fresh off a palette cleansing 4-1 win at Cincinnati, NYCFC will be looking to add three more points when they play host to the Columbus Crew Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
NYCFC will do this without James Sands, the 19-year-old center back/midfielder who has been a key part of the team’s success so far in 2019. Sands faces an extended time on the sidelines after suffering a broken collarbone versus Cincinnati.
Sands had previously sustained a broken arm against the Ohioans, so don’t expect NYCFC’s first-ever Homegrown signing to be vacationing in the Buckeye State anytime soon.
NYCFC vs Columbus preview
New York will be welcoming a Crew side that has begun to make the adjustment to Caleb Porter from longtime leader Gregg Berhalter. They are undefeated in over a month, having drawn their three previous matches.
The peculiar streak has not exactly rocketed the Crew up the standings. Columbus sits in 11th place in the MLS Eastern Conference, just one point above their in-state rival, Cincinnati.
New York will need to keep a particular eye on Pedro Santos, their 31-year-old Portuguese DP who has racked up nine goals this season in 26 games. Santos’ production, which includes three assists, has helped get the Crew on track after their leader and playmaker Federico Higuain went down to an ACL injury late in May. Columbus was already struggling but an indication of Pipa’s importance to this team is that Higuain is still the team leader with five assists.
NYC come into the match still trying to take advantage of the team’s games in hand over its division rivals. The Pigeons having lined out 24 times in 2019 as compared to 26 matches played by division-leading Atlanta, NYRB, and New England. Second-place Philadelphia Union and fourth place DC United sandwich NYC in the Eastern Conference standings having played 27 times this campaign.
New York’s win over Cincinnati was a badly needed one. It came on the heels of a top of the table battle in Atlanta that went to United in straight sets, with the gulf in class between the 2019 champions and New York making NYC look like pretenders.
New York was dominated by Atlanta to such an extent that NYC boss Dome Torrent called out the courage of several of his players. Those same players showed resilience against last-place Cincinnati, running out a 4-1 winner after falling behind early at Nippert Stadium.
His squad already formation fluid, Dome Torrent ran out a 4-3-3 that managed to get both of his center forwards, Valentin Castellanos and Heber, on the pitch at the same time, and it worked a charm with the two strikers each bagging a brace versus Cincinnati.
With Alexandru Mitria filling out the attacking trio. all-important Maxi Moralez drops back into the midfield role that best suit his playmaking skills. This leaves captain Alex Ring and reinstated Keaton Parks to do the midfield dirty work after Torrent dropped Parks for the Atlanta match to deleterious effect.
The good news, however, does not continue to NYC’s defensive wall directly in front of goalkeeper Sean Johnson. With Sands set to miss considerable time, and the status of likely replacement Alexander Callens and All-Star caliber fullback Anton Tinnerholm up in the air.
Ben Sweat and Eric Miller are on hand to fill in but Johnson may need to be extra sharp in order to keep Santos, Gyasi Zardes and company at bay Wednesday night in the Bronx.
Who: Cincinnati vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 17th @ 7:30 pm ET
Line: Cincinatti -245 | Draw +280 | NYCFC -105
Badly, if not quite desperately, in need of a win, a humbled NYCFC travels to to face the league’s worst team, Cincinnati FC, Saturday night at Nippert Stadium.
The Bronx boys dropped a 2-1 decision to Atlanta United last Sunday. No disgrace there. However, how NYC capitulated was enough to get a rise out of Dome Torrent.
The New York City FC coach felt that his team was afraid to play the short pass. Instead, they opted for the “safety” of the long ball, upsetting to Torrent because that contradicts the style that he preaches and the way of playing that has led to NYCFC’s best moments in 2019.
“What is the reason why you play different against Atlanta?” Torrent asked in his post-game comments. “If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. You have to be brave in Atlanta. If you want to play here, you have to be brave. If you are scared here, forget about it. Stay in New York. You have to play. If you play all the time quickly, quickly and lose the ball every three seconds it’s impossible to win here.”
New Cincinnati coach Ron Jans employs the high press. His new charges did so to good effect in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw versus Columbus Crew in the “Hell is Real” Derby. Still, NYCFC should have better success against the expansion side or some of Torrent’s players might be wishing they had been allowed to “stay in New York.”
Cincinatti vs NYCFC Preview
Cincinnati has had a difficult transition to the big leagues after conquering all comers to win the 2018 USL title. The club is already on its second coach with Jans recently taking over from USL holdover Alan Koch.
Cincinnati has recently added a Derrick Etiene from the New York Red Bulls. Etiene is a tricky winger/forward with talent that could never make his breakthrough in New York. Joe Gyau, haunted by injury for years, has come on board from second division German side MSV Duisburg.
Still just 26 years old, Cincy is banking on Gyau maintaining some of the speed and skills that made him a top American abroad long before Christian Pulisic. In fact, Pulisic’s old club Borussia Dortmund is one of five German clubs to have had Gyau on the books during his injury-ravaged career. Gyau spent the last two seasons in the German second division, first with SG Sonnenhof Großaspach and then with MSV Duisburg.
USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter clearly believes in Gyau. The current boss gave Gyau the most recent of his three full caps in June, calling the winger in as a substitute versus Jamaica.
Cincinnati has also added fullback Andrew Gutman, on loan from Glasgow Celtic. Gutman impressed, drawing praise from Jans. “I was really satisfied with his performance and also with his stamina, his fitness,” Jans told the club website after the 2-2 stalemate with Columbus. “He was taking initiative. In attacking, he can help us. I think he did a good, proper job also defensively, so a good debut.”
If it all seems a bit slapdash, I suppose that is to be expected with a team that has so far compiled a record of 5 wins, 17 losses, and 3 draws. And the MLS newcomers don’t discriminate. Cincinnati is bad on both sides of the ball. Their 25 goals are the least in the league. Defensively no team comes close to matching Cincy’s 57 goals surrendered.
The same can be said for the team’s play at home and on the road. Only Montreal can match Cincinnati’s 2 home wins for the league-worst. That is in part why NYCFC finds themselves as odds-on favorites on the road.
NYCFC’s +2 goal differential is far superior to Cincinatti’s almost incomprehensible -32. Still with 2-3 games in hand to their Eastern conference peers, NYCFC’s playoff spot seems secure. A win Saturday is a must though to stay in contention for the top spot in the conference.
Match: Atlanta United vs. NYCFC
Date and Time: Sunday, Aug 11 at 4:00pm ET
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Line: Atlanta United-136 | Draw +290 | NYCFC +330
Third place NYCFC is coming to town to battle second place Atlanta United, the top deck is open and tickets are going like __ (insert favorite Atlanta or Southern food here). This game is set up so well it could be an MLS regular-season game to excite even Zlatan!
And if not, why not? Both teams are coming off wins and looking to chase down first place Philadelphia Union (42 points) as we head into the business end of the season.
After a slow start to the campaign, 2018 MLS Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez is back leading the Atlanta attack. Don’t look now Carlos Vela, but Martinez has scored in nine consecutive matches, tying his MLS record.
That scoring run has Martinez, who set the single season league record last year with 31, on 18 goals, just four behind Vela.
Atlanta is, of course, a different team this year without Miguel Almiron and with Frank de Boer behind the bench in place of Tata Martino.
Gone too is Atlanta’s expansive, easy on the eye style. The switch to de Boer’s more rigid ways took some adjusting to for 2018 MLS Cup Champions, as they seemed to be asking if it’s not broke, why fix it?
The one player that has benefitted from the new way is center back Miles Robinson, a 22-year-old American that finds himself in contention for the U23/Olympic team, having become a regular under de Boer, playing all 24 of United’s games in 2019, starting 23.
Interestingly, Robinson’s situation is a virtual echo of the one James Sands faces with NYCFC. Sands also went from a spare part under Torrent and his successor Partick Vieira in 2018 to a key piece of the puzzle for his club, starting at the center of a three-center back set.
Sands missed some time recently with a broken arm and Torrent rested the 19-year-old for Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Houston but expect the Rye, New York native back in the lineup Sunday against Martinez and company.
Sands is teamed with veterans Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens with the experienced pair also providing some beef that the 5’11” Sands, listed at 162 pounds lacks, allowing the former midfielder to showcase his ball-playing skills from the center of the defense.
It was a big moment for NYC against Houston when Maxi Moralez checked into the game Thursday night, mere moments after 10 man Houston had taken a 2-1 lead with a Mauro Manotas goal, decidedly against the run of play.
Moralez is the key to New York’s attack, teaming with Alexandru Mitrita and striker’s Heber and Valentin Castellanos who came off the bench to score the tying and winning goals versus Houston.
Atlanta has been extremely reliant on Martinez for goals this season. The Atlanta marksman’s 18 goals are a far cry from the four each tallied by Julian Gressel and Ezequiel Barco, next on Atlanta’s goals list.
Barco has yet to live up to the hype generated by his big money move to Atlanta prior to the 2018 season. Doubts were swirling around Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez earlier this season, but the tide seems to be turning. If Pity is synched up with Josef Martinez come playoff time, then Atlanta could mount a serious defense of its title.
As for Sunday, Atlanta’s home record of 9 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws makes United a favorite against any team coming into Mercedes Benz, with the possible exception of LAFC. New York should make it tough on United and a draw isn’t out of the question, but with 70,00 plus screaming fans behind them Atlanta should enjoy some home cooking come Sunday.
Who: LAFC vs NY Red Bulls
When: SUN AUG 11, 10:00 PM ET on FS1 · TSN 1/4 · FOX Sports GO
Line: LAFC -315 | Draw +440 | +700
Already the best team in MLS by a wide margin, the Los Angeles Football Club has just added highly rated 19-year-old Uruguayan midfielder Brian Hernandez from Penarol as a Young Designated Player.
Diego Rossi also came to LAFC from Penarol, signing with the new LA side in December of 2017. Hernandez starred for Uruguay at the recent U20 World Cup and has experience playing in both the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.
As L.A.’s Bob Bradley-led juggernaut welcomes the New York Red Bulls to the Banc of California Park for a Sunday night showdown, NYRB has some transfer news of its own. The Red Bulls have just put pen to paper on a loan deal for 22 year-old winger Josh Sims, who comes to New York from Southampton on a Young DP contract for the rest of 2019.
Sims has made 20 Premier League appearances for the Saints, earning important minutes at the end of last season as Southampton successfully fought to secure its Premier League status.
With visa issues still to be resolved neither newcomer will be available on Sunday, although there will be plenty of talent on hand, particularly in the black and gold of the home team.
LAFC vs New York Red Bulls Match Preview
At 9 wins, 0 losses, and 1 draw, Los Angeles has a near-perfect home mark. They are not too bad on the road either, where they are 7-3-3.
The Red Bulls, third now in a tightly packed Eastern Conference, cannot come close to LA’s numbers and are 3-4-3 away from Red Bull Arena. If Chris Armas’ men are to get a result out of their cross country jaunt they will need to take some steps toward re-establishing the defensive chemistry that led New York’s MLS originals to the league’s best defensive record in 2018.
Perhaps the closing of the MLS transfer window on midnight Wednesday, August 7 will do the Red Bulls some good in that respect, now that Aaron Long knows where he will be playing his soccer for the immediate future.
The 2018 MLS Defender of the Year was reportedly close to a move to the Premier League’s West Ham, with other clubs in other league’s also said to be bidding for him. Long is a professional and seems unlikely to go into a funk, but performance levels have been known to drop when players are denied a move.
Long, goalkeeper Luis Robles and all the Red Bulls will need a big performance against L.A. who leads the league with 61 goals, 14 goals better than Philadelphia, second in MLS with 46.
Of course, goalkeeper Tyler Miller, center backs Walker Zimmerman and Eddie Segura have led LAFC to the best defensive record in the league, with LA having surrendered just 23 goals.
Of late, however, that defensive shield has shown a crack or two, with LA conceding twice after having built a 3-0 lead versus Atlanta on July 26. LAFC managed to close out that win, badly needed after Zlatan Ibrahimovich had hung a hattrick on them the previous week in a 3-2 loss to the L.A. Galaxy.
LA got back on track with a 2-0 win Saturday at New England behind goals from Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing. Rossi is second on the team and fourth in the league with 13 goals, with likely MVP Carlos Vela setting the pace with his MLS leading 22 goals and 13 assists, level with NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez for the top spot on the helpers chart.
With a very impressive record of 16 wins, 3 losses, and four draws, LAFC has obviously been consistent all season. From a points dropped standpoint, LA’s worst stretch was when they drew consecutive matches, 1-1 at Seattle on April 28 and 0-0 at home to Chicago on May 4.
As for the Red Bulls, consistently inconsistent might be the best way to describe their 2019 season. Going back to a pair of wins, 4-0 over Real Salt Lake on June 1, and 2-0 versus Cinncinatti on May 25, the Red Bull have alternated wins with losses, with just a 3-3 draw with Atlanta on July 7 breaking the win, lose, win, lose pattern.
NYRB are heavy underdogs at +700. With a +7 goal differential compared to LAFC’s +38, and on the road, they should be. Oddsmakers have the most likely outcome a 3-0 LAFC win (+800), meaning this could be a long night for the Red Bulls.
Who: NYCFC vs. Houston Dynamo
Where: Yankee Stadium – Bronx
When: August 8 – 7:00 PM ET
Line: NYCFC -210 | Draw +335 | Houston +540
STREAMING: MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, on DAZN in Canada
New York City FC returns home to the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium Thursday night following last weekend’s disappointing 3-1 loss at Real Salt Lake. With all of their rivals playing over that same weekend, NYC retained games in hand over the four teams above them in the standings.
A win on Thursday would, therefore, see NYC climb to third in the East with 38 points, one behind Atlanta.
NYCFC comes into this match in a feisty mood, led by coach Dome Torrent who is none too happy with the league for deciding to play his star Maxi Moralez versus Atletico Madrid in last week’s All-Star game.
Here is what Torrent told NYCFC radio broadcaster, Glenn Crooks (@GlennCrooks):
Dome Torrent, missing his 10, isn’t happy w/ #MLS: “I don’t understand why @MLS decide to play w/ Maxi Moralez. Everybody knows he was injured. He played 70% walking all the time. I’m not sure if he’s ready to play the next game. And look-he played in All-Stars.” #RSLvNYC #NYCFC
Given that we saw Moralez limp off of the Etihad Pitch at Yankee Stadium on July 26, just four days before the All-Star Game, and given further that Moralez did not dress for New York’s 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on August 3rd, Torrent would seem to have every reason to be angry.
The status of the MLS assist leader is uncertain for Thursday.
NYCFC vs Houston Dynamo Preview
Houston comes to the Bronx without a goal on its side of the ledger over its past 180 minutes, dropping a pair of 1-0 losses at home to Chicago and Seattle. Wilmer Cabrera’s side has to go back to July 20th for a goal-scoring memory, when the Dynamo put three into the Toronto net in a 3-1 victory.
Former NYCFC fan favorite Tommy McNamara notched one that night. The Rockland County native has become an important piece for Cabrera both from the start and off of the bench.
This match also offers New York area fans one last chance to tip a cap or raise a glass, or in some way honor the USMNT great DaMarcus Beasley, who has announced that this will be his final season as a professional soccer player.
Along with having one of the all-time great nicknames, Run DMB has represented American soccer since 2000 and through four World Cups, the only American to actually play in four Mundials. He is also the first Yank to have advanced to the UEFA Champions League Semifinal, where his PSV Eindhoven was eliminated by AC Milan.
With six starts this season, Beasley is no longer a regular for Houston, but he is still capable of providing a moment of magic. He did so versus Club America in the inaugural League’s Cup on July 24 when he turned the clock all the way back, raided down the left wing and powered a beaut past the Mexican club’s keeper. Houston lost on PKs but it was a fitting reminder of what Run DMB has provided for the USMNT for so many years.
If Houston is to trouble NYC at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, then that trouble will likely come from one of Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis, or Romell Quioto, with Memo Rodriquez and Tommy McNamara on hand to lend support.
But New York will be looking to make up for a disappointing trip to the mountains last week and Maxi Moralez’ status notwithstanding, Torrent’s men should come out on top.
Where to Bet NYCFC in the US
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Who: Real Salt Lake vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 3rd @ 10:00pm ET on ESPN+
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium
Line: RSL +138 | Draw +240 | NYCFC +185
NYCFC have made the long trek to Sandy, Utah ahead of Saturday night’s match against Real Salt Lake. RSL is in the midst of some turbulence with coach Mike Petke set to serve the second game of his three-game MLS suspension.
The ex N.Y. Red Bulls boss has also been fined $25,000 and banned for three future League’s Cup matches. The suspension is for the use of unacceptable and offensive language as well as repeated confrontational misconduct towards match officials.
Petke must also attend anger management, sensitivity and diversity training.
Commissioner Don Garber was not pleased, and although the exact language used has not been released, Petke is rumored to have directed a homophobic slur at the referee. “There is absolutely no place for this type of behavior in our society, and Major League Soccer does not tolerate the repugnant language used by Mr. Petke.”
“All MLS players, staff and fans must know that these comments are unacceptable, and I am extremely disappointed that a leader of one of our clubs used such insensitive language. We are committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect at all times.”– Don Garber on RSL coach Mike Petke
RSL vs NYCFC Preview
Now to the game. RSL cannot afford to be distracted by all of this. The club is in a playoff battle, tied on points with seventh-place Portland, and just two back of FC Dallas for sixth place.
RSL is coming off of a decent 3 wins -1 loss -3 draws stretch and might have come away from Dallas with a big win were it not for some acrobatic goalkeeping by Jesse Gonzalez.
Sam Johnson leads the attack for Salt Lake, who will be coached once again by assistant Freddy Juarez who led RSL out versus FC Dallas last Saturday.
Johnson leads RSL with eight goals but it is a fairly balanced attack. Albert Rusnak has contributed seven goals and three assists. Jefferson Savarino has added five goals with Danny Kralich chipping in with four goals and three assists.
American soccer icons, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, are still at it for RSL. However, Rimado announced that he will hang up his gloves at the end of the 2019 season.
RSL also features a contingent of somewhat younger Americans from center-back Justen Glad and fullback Aaron Herrera. They also feature the versatile Brooks Lennon, midfielder Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo, and forward Corey Baird.
Lennon, Glad, Herrera, and Saucedo captured the CONCACAF title for the United States and advanced to the final eight in South Korea in the 2017 FIFA U20 World Championships.
New York will be aware that Salt Lake enjoys its home cooking, compiling a 7-2-1 record at Rio Tinto Stadium.
New York won’t be too worried, though. With a 4-2-4 road record, they’re second in the league to Bob Bradley’s LAFC. MLS is a notoriously difficult league on road teams, so much so that LAFC and NYCFC are the only teams in the league above .500 away from home. DC United is dead level at 4-4-4.
While RSL is slightly favored in this match, should they be?
With Alexander Ring playing out of his skin on both sides of the ball, MLS assist leader Maxi Moralez dishing, Heber making goal-scoring look routine and the remainder of Dome Torrent’s side proving more than ample backup, it would surprising not to see the visitors from the east emerge with at least one point, if not the full complement.
Who: New York Red Bulls vs Toronto FC
When: Saturday, August 3rd @ 6:00pm ET on ESPN+
Where: Red Bull Arena
Line: New York Red Bulls -114 | Draw +285 | Toronto FC +270
Welcome back from the break, now, where were we?
Oh, yeah, on July 27, um last Saturday, the New York Red Bulls dropped a painful 3-2 decision at home to the hugely disappointing Columbus Crew – wasn’t Caleb Porter supposed to be better than this? – that left them sitting in 5th place with 34 points. Not terrible, but not great after 23 games from the defending Supporters Shield winners.
Now the Red Bulls hope to kick off a stretch run with a win against a side in worse shape than themselves, the struggling Toronto Football Club. Despite a 2-1 home win over FC Cincy last Saturday, TFC spent the break below the playoff line. However, a win on Saturday could push them as far up the table as 5th place, ahead of the Red Bulls and level on points with 4th place NYCFC.
New York Red Bulls vs Toronto FC match preview
With the taste of that loss to Columbus and the lingering feeling that they should have done better than a 3-1 loss in Toronto back on July 17, the Red Bulls figure to be a somewhat angry side on Saturday night.
The Red Bulls have done well over the years against Toronto, especially at home, where the Bulls have are an impressive 11-2-2 versus the Reds over the years.
To keep that record climbing, New York will need to contend with Jozy Altidore, who has scored a goal in four consecutive games, some of them quite spectacular, and MLS All-Star Alejandro Puzuelo, who has been a smash hit since coming to the league. Puzuelo has nine goals and nine assists in 19 games. Giovinco-esque, no?
As for Altidore, the man a sizable portion of USMNT supporters love to hate, he has been flashing the combination of power and skill that first excited the American soccer community when he first appeared on the scene way back in 2006.
Altidore has nine goals in 13 games this season, just nine starts. Simply put, when Altidore is healthy, he is still far and away the best American striker and a top MLS star.
TFC has not been sharp defensively and is looking to another controversial USMNT man, Omar Gonzalez, to right that ship. Gonzalez has played three games for Toronto since returning to the league for the first time since 2015, when Gonzalez left the L.A. Galaxy for Mexico.
New York coach Chris Armas has yet to rely on Bradley Wright-Phillips for a full match since the veteran striker’s return. Instead, he is choosing to bring BWP off of the bench to replace or play alongside Reb Bulls joint-leading goal scorer Brian White.
Armas may be inclined to continue that strategy, although a surprise pairing from the start could upset TFC coach Greg Vanney’s plans. In our mid-season Report Card, we pointed out that it may be time for Derrick Etienne to make a jump from bit player to a more prominent role in the Red Bulls attack.
His confidence is on the up after playing an important part in Haiti’s Gold Cup campaign. The Haitian-American is quick, skillful and can be audacious, qualities the Red Bulls offense could surely use.
The Red Bulls finally have their health as they head into the final portion of the 2019 season. If the team is to make a run to the playoffs and perhaps do some damage once they get there, last season’s league leading defense simply must cut down on the mistakes and tighten up in front of Luis Robles.
The Tyler Adams effect has been real but with four international quality defenders in Kemar Lawrence, Michael Murillo, Aaron Long, and Tim Parker, the Red Bulls defense can and should be among the league’s best.
Only Major League Soccer could have an All-Star break where no one actually gets any time off.
For example, NYCFC is back in action this Saturday in Salt Lake, eight days after defeating Sporting KC 3-1 in the Bronx.
That victory sent New York City Football Club into the “Break” in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. However, a slightly closer look at the standings paints a rosier picture for Dome Torrent’s men.
By some quirk in the schedule, likely to do with the team’s status as the New York Yankees tenants in the Bronx, NYCFC has played just 20 games, three less than any other Eastern Conference team.
NYCFC is just four points behind Philadelphia Union with four games in hand. They are second in MLS with 1.75 points per game behind the LAFC juggernaut, averaging 2.23 ppg, and well positioned to make a late charge up the table.
So, how did NYCFC get here? Let’s take a look. Here are their “mid-season” grades.
Since coming to the Big Apple for the 2017 season, Sean Johnson has revived his career in the Bronx.
Under Patrick Vieira and now Torrent, Johnson has improved his ball-playing skills and has earned his way back into the USMNT picture under Gregg Berhalter. Johnson was selected to the Gold Cup squad, where he played one match while serving as Zack Steffen’s backup.
With one notable exception versus Minnesota in April, Johnson has largely eliminated his propensity for the big error, or howler, and provides leadership and stability as well as superior shot-blocking for NYCFC.
Despite a shaky moment or two, NYC won three of the four matches career backup Brad Stuver played while Johnson was on international duty, losing once and earning Stuver his first MLS shutout.
Torrent has built an effective and versatile defense in front of Johnson, a unit that the Spaniard can send out in a three back set or a four back with equal confidence. Surprisingly, the key to the NYC defense has turned out to be 19 year-old James Sands, the first Homegrown Player in club history. Sands entered the 2019 season as a midfielder with just four first-team appearances over two years.
Something seemed to click for the team and the player when Sands was dropped in between veterans Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot in a three back-formation.
With Anton Tinnerholm ever-present at right fullback/right wingback and Ronald Matarrita emerging over Ben Sweat as the first choice on the opposite flank, the three back set looks look NYC’s best bet going forward.
Sweat has as many appearances this season as Matarrita and Torrent can use the two at once with “Mata” playing further up the pitch. Eric Miller was recently acquired to provide cover for Tinnerholm, who has played every minute for NYCFC this season and has been outstanding.
On Friday night at Yankee Stadium, Torrent sent out what looks to be his team’s best starting 11. Johnson, Chanot, Sands, and Callens at the back, with Tinnerholm and Matarrita flanking captain Alex Ring and Keaton Parks. Finally, he opted for a front three of Maxi Moralez, Heber, and Alexandru Mitrita.
As Friday’s match unfolded, Parks dropped deeper defensively while Ring pushed into the attack, scoring one goal and assisting on two more.
So, are Tinnerholm and Matarrita midfielders? If not, is NYC plying with just two midfielders? It all just points out that systems are flexible.
MLS assist leader Moralez, was listed as a wide forward but spent much of his time floating around the center of the pitch and Tinnerholm and Mata still could not neglect their defensive duties.
However you slice it, NYC has a talented midfield group led by Ring and his newish midfield partner Keaton Parks. Ring has been a do-everything stalwart for the Pigeons since his arrival from FC Kaiserslautern for the 2017 season.
Parks is a 21-year-old Texan arrived on a season-long loan from Portuguese giants Benfica but had had to bide his time before earning a spot in the starting 11. When I asked Ring after that win on Friday what Parks brings to the side the captain put it this way, “he was always neat on the ball and ran his ass off and he’s earned his chance.”
Torrent has plenty of depth in the midfield with Ebenezer Ofori, Jesus Medina his first options off of the bench and Matarrita always happy to be pushed forward.
As we’ve seen Moralez, though really a midfielder, can be deadly wherever he initially lines out. However, it is his play in combination with a pair of recent arrivals that makes this NYC team a threat to go deep in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Alexandru Mitrita arrived from Universitatea Craiova in his native Romania just prior to the season but despite his quality, NYC was still lacking a true number nine. On March 21, Tab Ramos and the NYCFC front office finally delivered, signing Héber Araújo dos Santos, or Heber, to fill that role.
Heber debuted in a goalless draw versus Montreal in the Bronx but it soon became apparent in Moralez, Mitrita, and Heber that NYCFC had a Big 3 that had a chance to be special. Heber has been an instant hit, scoring nine goals in 13 games, 11 of them starts. Playing the number nine role for NYC, Heber provides a focal point for the teams’ deep attack.
When healthy, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi can return Moralez to the midfield, but injuries have slowed last year’s 11 goal scorer to just four in 12 games (8 starts). If Isi is healthy down the stretch NYC will be very dangerous.
20-year-old Argentine Vincent Castellanos failed to fire last season, his first in New York, but since the arrival of Heber, the young striker has become a dangerous weapon off of the bench and as an occasional starter.
One failure this season at NYCFC, aside from all the draws, was the inability of Torrent to find a way to get the best out of promising American winger Jonathan Lewis. Patrick Vieira also failed in that task before Lewis was shipped off to Colorado. Lewis has scored three goals for the Rapids in six games, so he clearly has something to offer.
For whatever reason, it didn’t happen in New York for Lewis, so Reyna turned to the transfer market to acquire Scottish winger Gary Mackay-Steven from SPL side Aberdeen to provide depth on the wing.
With 14 games remaining New York has a lot going for it – if they make good use of those games in hand. This is a well-balanced team, versatile and deep, a side that looks good enough to battle for the top playoff position in the East.
How oddsmakers view NYCFC
NYCFC is a clear second favorite to win the MLS Cup. Priced at +600, only LAFC (+200) has better odds. The gap between NYCFC and third favorite Atlanta United (+1100) is considerable.
Look for NYCFC to not just challenge for the Eastern Conference honors, but for the MLS Cup as well.
With the MLS All-Star Game complete, it’s time to hand out some grades on the season’s (slightly more than) first half.
The New York Red Bulls entered the 2019 season as the defending Supporters Shield winners, again. The 2018 edition of RBNY racked up 71 points from 34 regular season matches to edge Atlanta United for the right to raise the Shield.
Unfortunately for New York’s MLS originals, Major League Soccer does not decide its champion via the regular season, as in the European and South American model. MLS “Americanized” the sport with a playoff system that it has employed since the Red Bulls were known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars back in the inaugural 1996 season.
The Red Bulls are only too familiar with this wrinkle. They’ve claimed the Supporters Shield three times: 2013, 2015, and 2018. Still, they have not once earned the right to call themselves MLS Cup champions.
All of which is to say that a run to the MLS Cup Final would render the following grades as meaningless, an eventuality that would likely please the majority of the Red Bulls.
We will grade by position with comments on the individual players.
Red Bulls captain Luis Robles has been one of the best keepers in MLS since he took over for an injured Ryan Meara in 2012. His leadership role since taking over ultimately led to Robles earning the captain’s armband.
Meara is still around serving as Robles’ backup, and the Yonkers, N.Y. native may well be the best number two in the league.
Last season, the Red Bulls conceded just 33 goals in a 34 game season, numbers that have proved impossible to duplicate in 2019. After Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Columbus, the Red Bulls have surrendered that same amount, 33 goals, in just 23 games.
Robles has played in all but one of those matches, and while the fault lies primarily with the Red Bulls defense, the goalkeeper must also accept a share of the responsibility.
Injuries and international call ups have played a role in the decline of the Red Bulls defense. So too has some poor individual play. The Gold Cup deprived coach Chris Armas of three of his back four, with fullbacks Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), Michael Murillo (Panama), and Aaron Long (USA) all missing time for the Gold Cup. Long’s center back partner Tim Parker has had some minor injury issues to deal with, and Lawrence missed the beginning of the campaign through injury.
The Red Bulls defensive depth has been severely tested and has fared ok. When Amro Tarek has more starts (17) and more minutes (1,388) than Aaron Long (13 & 1,125) and when Connor Lade has started just one game less than Kemar Lawrence, then your defense will suffer.
Which isn’t to say that Tarek and Lade have been bad. They haven’t. And fullback Kyle Duncan and central defender Sean Nealis have stepped in with some good performances when called upon, too.
But the rock solid certainty of New York’s defense from 2018, the defense that featured Murillo and Lawrence on the wings and Long and Parker in the middle, with Tyler Adams and Sean Davis patrolling in front of them, is gone.
Armas has shuffled players, shifting in and out of a three back and four back formation. The results have been decent. However, the uncertainty surrounding the Red Bulls defense is reflected in the team’s goals allowed stats and in the Eastern Conference Standings, where the Red Bulls sit fifth.
Replacing the indefatigable Tyler Adams was never going to be easy for the Red Bulls, even for a team that barely missed a beat when Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty moved on over the past couple of seasons.
The Red Bulls task was further complicated by Kaku’s flirtation with a failed transfer to Mexican powerhouse Club America. This led to the team talisman’s subsequent slow start. Kaku has since corrected course but none of the potential Adams replacements has come close to providing what the current RB Leipzig man brought last season.
Most of the minutes in Adams’ old spot alongside Sean Davis in the center of the park have fallen to Marc Rzatkowski. 19-year-old Venezuelan Cristian Cásseres Jr. has shown promised and seen considerable time as well.
Without Adams around to cover his customary huge tracts of land, some of that workload has fallen to a willing Davis. He has seen his assist total drop from eight in 2018 to just two so far this year.
Kaku’s assist numbers are also way down, continuing a trend that began in the second half of last season. In just 12 starts to date in 2019, the Argentinian born, Paraguayan international has contributed just three goals and four assists, leaving the Red Bulls struggling for creativity.
That has increased the pressure on the Red Bulls fabled press to cause counter-attack providing turnovers. Hard working wingers Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl, who has doubled as a wing-back, can be disruptive forces for opponents to deal with and Royer is a reliable scoring option this year (eight goals and six assists).
20-year-old Bronx native Omir Fernandez has two goals and two assists as an attacking midfielder. The rookie Homegrown prospect has been used off the bench in 11 of his 14 appearances this season.
After a good showing at the Gold Cup for Haiti, midfielder/forward Derrick Ettienne returned to Harrison, New Jersey brimming with confidence and looking to solidify a place for himself in Armas’ rotation. Ettienne has scored just one goal in 10 appearances (4 starts) for New York this year. If he can show some consistency, Ettienne could play a bigger role down the stretch for the Bulls.
Bradley Wright-Phillips has only recently returned from a long injury spell that created a goal-scoring vacuum for a team that has been overly reliant on him the past couple of seasons.
Goals were hard to come by when BWP went down until 23- year -old striker Brian White found the range and Royer found his shooting boots.
But it has been Brian White, the 16th pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft out of Duke, that has essentially saved the Red Bulls season. White enters the All-Star break tied with Royer for the team lead with eight goals and murmurings of a call up to USMNT’s January Camp.
Armas likens White’s game to BWP. There is something to that, as both strikers do their best work close to goal. Of course, White has much to accomplish before he can be ranked anywhere near Wright-Phillips, the all-time leading goal scorer in New York Red Bulls history with 108.
Armas has been slowly integrating Wright-Phillips back into the lineup. How he and White gel could have a say in how the Bulls finish up this season.
Team Grade: C+
If this seems harsh keep in mind the Red Bulls success from last season. Injuries and absences have played a role but fifth place (at the moment) is a big fall from first.
How Oddsmakers view the Red Bulls’ season to date
Oddsmakers agree with our assessment of the Red Bulls to date. After starting the season as one of the three favorites to win the MLS Cup, New York now have the 11th best odds.
They’re priced at +2000 on DraftKings Sportsbook NJ. That’s the same as Minnesota United.
Ellis will still remain with the team through their five game victory tour this summer.
According to Equalizer, Ellis is stepping down of her own accord. Neither Ellis nor USSoccer has released a statement as of this writing.
Jill Ellis USWNT coaching record
After an interim stint as manager, Jill Ellis was appointed as permanent coach of the USWNT in May 2014.
From there, she guided the national team to two World Cup titles (2015, 2019). She won CONCACAF and FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year honors in 2015.
Was Jill Ellis a good coach?
Ellis has her critics. The 2016 US Olympic finish — the worst-ever for the team — is a blot on her resume. However, the English born manager has to be credited with keeping the US program on track to win this year’s World Cup despite a swirl of publicity relating to the team’s Equal Pay Lawsuit against USSoccer, as well as the back and forth between co-captain Megan Rapinoe and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Ellis’ near-constant experimentation, which continued up to the World Cup semifinal and final, had some critics scratching their heads. In particular, her decision to start Sam Mewis over Lindsey Horan raised howls of protest among the USWNT cognoscenti and casual fans alike. But Ellis had the last laugh, as Mewis performed very well on the biggest possible stage.
In the wake of that 2016 Olympic disappointment, Ellis set about broadening the USWNT’s playing style, a process that led to more than a few bumps in the road. Ellis sought to turn the U.S. into more of a possession-based side, rather than a team that got by on speed, strength, and athleticism.
Ellis, now 52, felt that the likes of 2016 Olympic Champions Germany, along with France, and England, among others, were too good to beat with that approach – and so began a three year “Mad Scientist” phase for the coach.
She tried and discarded a three-back set featuring career-long midfielder Allie Long. Ellis sometimes struggled with a problem most of her rival coaches would have given their eye teeth to try solving: what to do with so many fantastic players?
By the time the World Cup rolled around this June, Ellis had settled on playing dynamic attacker Crystal Dunn at left fullback, even though Dunn can be a nightmare from the forward or attacking midfield position.
Ellis landed on Julie Ertz as the team’s defensive midfielder, although she teased the possibility of using the Best 11 World Cup 2015 defender in the back right up until the WWC kicked off.
Silky smooth attacking midfielder Rose Lavelle emerged as one of the rising stars of the women’s game. A share of the credit has to go to Ellis, who never wavered in her belief that Lavelle, despite missing considerable time through injury in the World Cup buildup, could bring that something different the USWNT was lacking.
Ellis also stuck to her guns when she decided that Alex Morgan flanked by Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath was her best front line, despite the presence of Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, and Mallory Pugh.
Jill Ellis USWNT coaching record
Ellis, a longtime assistant who took over from Tom Sermanni in May 2014, walks away as the only coach to have won the Women’s World Cup on two occasions.
She retires with an outstanding record of 102 wins, 7 losses, and 18 ties.
Ellis, who coached more games than any other USWNT coach, will take charge of the team through its five-match Victory Tour, beginning Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, when the World Cup Champions face the Republic of Ireland.
Who will be the next USWNT coach?
There is no obvious successor in place, as Ellis was when the decision to terminate Sermanni was made.
And then we have the issue of the General Manager. As with the Men’s National Team, USSoccer has created a system in which the person named to the newly created position of General Manager will lead the coaching search.
Earnie Stewart was eventually named as the GM on the Men’s side, after a delay that left the USMNT rudderless for a long year, before Gregg Berhalter was finally named.
That cannot happen with the women’s team, not with the 2020 Olympics just around the corner.
Given the proximity of the Olympics and the increased investment in the women’s game by a number of the traditional European powers – seven of the eight quarterfinalists were European – whoever takes on the mantle of GM needs to nail this hire.
It really is difficult to speculate on the next coach without knowing the identity of the GM but with all 23 of the U.S. World Cup Team coming from the NWSL, it makes sense to look to the domestic league for Ellis’ likely replacement.
The most respected and experienced coaches in the league are Paul Riley, of North Carolina, Vlatko Andonovski of Seattle, and Laura Harvey, of the Utah Royals. Jim Gabarra is out the league at the moment but he has a long career in U.S. Women’s soccer behind him and could possibly emerge.
We will be keeping an eye out for future developments.