Weekend Countdown - Preview by the Numbers

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Anytime the FA Cup is on it’s a good weekend for European soccer. Chelsea and Manchester United will hope to shrug off their exits in the Champions League as they face Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion respectively. Outside of the FA Cup, Bayern Munich has an away game at the electrifying Red Bull Arena against RB Leipzig on Sunday and Marseille is hosting Lyon on Sunday as well for a top-notch Ligue 1 game.

Here’s an insightful preview of this weekend’s European fixtures—don’t place any bets until you get down to 1:

10. Napoli recently blew their 10 league-game winning run with a loss to Roma and a tie with Inter Milan last week. Maurizio Sarri’s men face Genoa this weekend. Napoli have won their last 10 outings against Genoa. Dries Mertens will be Napoli’s player-to-watch in the encounter as he leads the team in scoring. As for Genoa, the speedy Diego Laxalt had a hand in each of Genoa’s last three goals. Laxalt has 10 league goals to his name in his career.

9. Atletico Mardid is traveling to Estadio de la Ceramica on Sunday to take on Villarreal. The number 9’s for both clubs are going into the game fresh off of great performances. Atletico’s number 9, Fernando Torres, netted a brace against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League. Meanwhile, Villarreal’s number 9, Carlos Bacca, scored in his side’s last game against Las Palmas. Bacca leads Villarreal in scoring with 9 goals.

8. Ligue 1’s must-watch fixture is Marseille’s clash with Lyon at the Orange Velodrome on Sunday. Marseille hasn’t recorded a win against Lyon in 8 games. Lyon was knocked out of the Europa League by CSKA Moscow on Thursday and will be without their top scorer, number 18, Nabil Fekir, who’s nursing a knee injury.

Unlike OL, Marseille advanced to the EL quarters by downing Bilbao 5-2 on aggregate. The club’s star playmaker, Dimitri Payet, is entering the game against Lyon with 8 league-assists and 8 goals in all competitions.

7. Real Madrid will seek an avenging win over 7th placed La Liga team, Girona. Girona defeated Madrid 2-1 the first and only time the two clubs ever met in October. Girona number 7 Cristhian Stuani is having a sensational season, tallying 15 goals. Stuani netted the equalizer when his side faced Madrid last. CR7 scored in his last 7 games but has never hit the net against Girona.

6. After crashing out of the Champions League, Chelsea will hope to extend a 6 game unbeaten run against Leicester in the FA Cup on Sunday. Manchester United will fight to bounce back from a CL exit as well by adding another win to their 6 victories over Brighton. Brighton have only defeated United once, nearly 36 years ago on November 6, 1982.

5. Barcelona will welcome Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou on Sunday. Bilbao is winless in their last 5 matches away from home. The Basque Country based club was knocked out of the Europa League after losing to Marseille 5-2 on aggregate. Barcelona forward Lionel Messi will be looking to score in his 5th consecutive match. On a bad note for Barca, number 5 Sergio Busquets, is ineligible to play due to a broken toe. The Blaugrana second top scorer, Luis Suarez, won’t take part in the game either as he will be serving a yellow card accumulation suspension.

4. Serie A juggernaut Juventus is scheduled to play SPAL on Saturday. Juve have won 24 Serie A games while SPAL has claimed just 24 points. A win is crucial for both clubs as SPAL is fighting to climb out of the dropzone, while Juventus is battling Napoli for the Scudetto, sitting on top of the table with a 4-point gap.

3. Meanwhile in Germany, Bayern Munich will put a 3-month undefeated run on the line against RB Leipzig at the Red Bull arena. A loss would drop Leipzig to 3 straight winless games. Bayern star striker Robert Lewandowski leads the Budesliga in scoring with 23 goals. Lewandowski scored 3 goals in his last league game.

2. Back in Italy, Inter Milan’s next opponent in their race to reach the Champions League is against Sampdoria. Inter sits one spot below Lazio for the last CL spot. However, the club hasn’t defeated Sampdoria in 2 outings. Serie A second top scorer, Mauro Icardi, will battle La Samp’s defenders for his first goal in 2 months.

1. First placed Ligue 1 team PSG is set to play Nice this weekend. Nice have lost 11 league-games so far and the club’s top scorer Mario Balotelli is doubtful to play due to a thigh injury. Alassane Plea stepped up in Balotelli’s absence in Nice’s last match against Guingamp, scoring four goals on March 11th. Edinson Cavani had a brace the last time the clubs met in a 3-0 win.


Author: Onz Chery

USL Spotlight: Rio Grande Valley FC Toros

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The debate concerning the future of soccer in the United States is not anywhere near settled.  However, the game has seen unprecedented growth in the past decade and the USL has created a space for that growth, providing more opportunities for talented players to play at the professional level in the United States. 

In 2011, just 12 teams participated, six teams in each conference.  In 2018, 33 teams are competing for the USL Cup, 16 in the Eastern Conference and 17 in the Western Conference. 

If you have not yet jumped onto the USL ship, now is the time to find your team. The USL is home to some of the most passionate, vibrant and informed fan bases in US sport.  The undeniable appeal of the USL has brought money, resources, stadiums, coaches and players to soccer communities that have been pushed out of the picture for years, perhaps decades.

But with new teams appearing each season, it can be difficult to keep up.  Resident USL Expert, Busby Cagle, is here to help.  Each week, Busby will spotlight one USL club, looking at the history of the club, the players, the fans, and the prospect of success in the near or distant future.

Rio Grande Valley F.C.

Founded: 2015

Home Ground: H-E-B Park; Edinburg, Texas

Manager: Gerson Echeverry

2017 Finish: 11th, Western Conference

Mascot/Nickname:  Toros

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The 2018 USL season will be opening on Friday at H-E-B Park, where the Toros will play host to Saint Louis FC. The Houston Dynamo affiliate languished near the bottom of the Western Conference table for nearly all of last season and will be hoping to get off on the right foot to start the new year.

RGV are looking to rebound from a disappointing sophomore season which saw them drop nine places in the Western Conference standings from their inaugural year. The Toros opened their new soccer-specific stadium in 2017 with an indicator of what was to come, losing to San Antonio FC by a goal to nil. Home supporters would only be treated to five wins and 20 goals throughout the rest of the season.

Previous manager Junior Gonzalez, now on the LA Galaxy coaching staff, opted for a traditional 4-2-3-1 for most of the season, with an ever rotating cast of not quite proper center forwards leading the line. The greatest benefiter of this system was Kyle Murphy, who led the team with seven goals, coming both as an ad hoc striker and from his more natural right wing position. This mix-and-match approach to filling up the eleven also saw multiple central midfielders take up the number nine role.

A late switch to a more attack oriented 4-1-4-1 was not enough to turn the Toros’ tide, the side collecting a paltry six goals in the seven matches following the switch. On the other side of the ball, however, returning defensive stalwart Kai Greene and fresh-faced goalkeeper Nico Corti will look to shore up the club’s already decent defensive record. Greene racked up the fourth most playing time in a squad averaging 1.56 goals against per match, while Corti is coming off an outstanding year at Stanford University, conceding only nine goals in 23 appearances with a .890 save percentage.

RGV were participants in two of the most goal-heavy matches of the entire 2017 USL season. Unfortunately for the native supporters, only one saw the Toros emerge victorious, and neither was in front of the crowd at H-E-B Park. June brought a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Sacramento Republic FC with over 11,000 witnessing the dismantling. An early August matchup at Seattle Sounders II, however, featured a wonderful second half comeback. Three unanswered goals erased a 3-1 halftime deficit, seeing the Toros leave Seattle with all three points in a 4-3 victory. For the pessimists reading this, though, it should be noted that this one match accounted for nearly one-fourth of all RGV’s away goals.

New manager Gerson Echeverry will need to get the team firing on all cylinders in the final third if there is to be any hope for improvement. Their 20 home goals were accompanied by an even more depressing 17 on the road, combining for the fourth worst goal tally in the Western Conference. The manager will no doubt be eagerly awaiting the approval of new forward Jesus Enriquez’s P-1 visa, as the former Club Tijuana reserve striker will be expected to find the back of the net early and often. Even the stingiest defense needs goals to complement it, and RGV were hardly a brick wall, ending the year conceding the seventh most goals in the entire 30-team league.

All in all, it seems the Toros will live and die by their offensive output this year, so be on the lookout for a shakeup along the front lines. With a new manager and a whole host of new signings, RGV will look quite a bit different from their 2017 squad. Hopefully 2018 will prove to be bullish for RGV’s goal accounts.


Friday, March 16 vs. Saint Louis FC; 7:30 PM

All USL matches are streamed live on the USL YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBhFPYpX9WBxYRMGzqLjoMA


Author: Busby Cagle

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Fantasy Five - Tips for your Fantasy Premier League team 3/14/18

You have some major decisions to make this week regarding your Fantasy Premier League team – if you only have a few of your current squad who have league games scheduled for this week, what do you do? Play your wildcard? Use the Free Hit, if you still have it? Accept you’re in for a bad week and save your chips for the gameweeks ahead where some players will have two matches to play? There are no easy answers, but certainly you want to put out the best team you can at the weekend, so here are five suggestions for the best players to choose from the few available this week, courtesy of our friends at Armchair Fancast - the weekly podcast discussing all the latest happenings from the Premier League. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here, and follow them on Twitter here!

  1. Asmir Begovic (BOU, £4.5): It might seem a strange thing to say given that Bournemouth have not kept a clean sheet in five games (and conceded 4 goals to both Huddersfield and Spurs during that time), surely the goalkeeper with the best chance of a shut-out this weekend is Begovic. Granted, this is largely because his team are at home against doomed West Brom – a side that has lost its last three away games to zero and is on a six-game losing streak.
  2. Trent Alexander-Arnold (LIV, £4.3): Liverpool’s young full-back had a torrid time at Old Trafford last week and was turned inside out by Rashford for that spectacular first goal – but Watford are no Manchester United. Expect Klopp to demand that his team plays with much more width against the Hornets, which should allow Alexander-Arnold the opportunity to run riot down the right wing. Offensive and defensive points are a strong possibility for this young man who will be eager to make a statement after last week’s events.
  3. Wilfried Zaha (CRY, £6.8): The best predictor this season of whether Crystal Palace will play well is a very simple one: is Zaha fit? Without him the Eagles had that historic losing streak at the start of the season, while his latest injury spell has seen them lose three in a row and drop into the relegation zone. Luckily the Ivorian winger managed 45 minutes against Chelsea last week and will probably manage plenty more this week. Not a moment too soon for Roy Hodgson, because Zaha is without doubt his team’s principal creative spark.
  4. Mohamed Salah (LIV, £10.6): We’ve avoided mentioning Salah for much of the season because he is such an obvious pick, but in a week like this one it would be almost criminal not to include him. 24 goals already and 10 assists, plus over 50 points more than any other player in this year’s FPL – those are genuinely breath-taking stats, especially for a debut season. And if that’s not enough for you, guess who he was facing when he scored his first goal and first assist? That’s right, it’s this week’s opponents Watford, on the very first day of the season. Captain this man immediately.
  5. Cenk Tosun (EVE, £7.0): Everton’s new boy was firing blanks for his first six league games after signing in January, but that’s all changed over the past fortnight. A goal against each of Burnley and Brighton, plus 5 bonus points from a possible 6, should have raised plenty of FPL managers’ eyebrows – but interestingly Tosun is still owned by less than 2% of your rivals, so why not be one of the first to jump on the bandwagon?

Author: Dave Bradshaw

Armchair Fancast podcast

5 Headlines from MLS Week 2

New York Red Bulls Trample Struggling Timbers

If I was asked last week to choose a game to watch, it would have been the NYRB vs Portland game. Portland was coming off a loss to the LA Galaxy, which was surprising considering the Timbers’ previous season. Most wrote it off as a fluke, and were looking forward to Portland on the road to New York, where the Red Bulls were coming off of a three-day break after beating Club Tijuana in Tijuana in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final.

“It's amazing, just coming up through the academy is an incredible experience, with great coaches and great players. It’s the dream to play for the first team and that dream came true tonight.”

Ben Mines speaking with Goal.com about Saturday's performance

The Red Bulls charged into the lead as New York’s seventeen-year-old homegrown player, Ben Mines, finished off a neatly worked team goal in the eighteenth minute. New York would put up 3 more goals in the final 23 minutes of the game to shut Portland out and drop the Timbers to a dismal 0-2-0 start to the season. This could be a telling first two games for Portland, and they will have plenty of questions to answer in the coming weeks. No matter what, this was a statement first match and win for NYRB and going forward they will be a team to watch out for.

LAFC; Expansion on the Rise

Expansion teams are fickle to predict, because MLS is an unforgiving league, and it is never clear what teams will do when they face competition, no matter how good they look on paper. Last season, Atlanta looked good on paper, and were one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, while Minnesota, who to be fair did not look as good on paper, had a pretty rough first season in the league.

LAFC on paper looks to be a good team, and 2 games into the season, they appear to be the real deal. Winning 1-0 over Seattle is a big deal, but it was not clear what the matchup against RSL in Rio Tinto would bring. RSL scored first, but that was pretty much the best they had on the day, as LAFC would go on to score 5 straight. The play of the attacking front 4 for LA – Marco Urena, Carlso Vela, Latif Blessing, and Diego Rossi – is relentless. De Rossi bagged a brace on the day, while Vela and Blessing each scored a goal of their own. It is still a long season, but for right now LAFC are looking very good.

NYCFC; A Small Field in the Big Apple

If you have never seen NYCFC play a home game on TV this might seem like a weird talking point, however once you see the field for yourself, it changes your mindset completely. MLS has league standards for field size, which are stated as 110 yards long and 70 yards wide at a minimum. NYCFC swears that their field meets minimum league standards, but most disagree with that. Head coach of Sporting KC Peter Vermes has been quoted saying that he believes it is “68 by 106,” which is significantly smaller than the minimum standards.

Many coaches have questioned the assurances of NYCFC that the field meets minimum requirements, but not much can be done about it. Teams cannot properly line their practice pitches because when they line them to the minimum standards, they are still too big, according to coaches like Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter. It is understandable that the field will be small when it is located in a baseball outfield, but not meeting standards is a problem.

Attendance Numbers be Damned! Atlanta Sets Record

Last week I wrote about how MLS-announced attendance numbers are highly questionable and could in fact be fixed by the league based on where it wants success to be seen. Atlanta United last season set the record for attendance at a single game with 71,874 against Toronto.  On Sunday they broke that record, with an attendance of 72,035! Atlanta is such an exciting team to watch in MLS that it makes a lot of sense that they should have great support. Some were unsure, including myself, what kind of support MLS would have in Atlanta, but there is no doubt they are one of the most supported teams in the league, and one that everyone loves to watch each week.

Homegrown Player of the Week: Ben Mines

You may not have heard of Ben Mines prior to this weekend, unless you are a Red Bulls fan. That being said, everyone should know who this kid is now.  At 17 years of age, Ben Mines played the full 90 minutes in the Red Bulls victory over Portland. Mines scored not just his first ever MLS goal, but the first goal for New York this season, within the first 20 minutes of action. Ben Mines has speed on his side and is a player to watch this season moving forward.

Through 2 weeks in the season, there have only been 48 appearances for homegrown players, with a total of 2945 minutes. Homegrown players have been involved in 12 goals so far this season, through 7 goals and 5 assists, and average 61 minutes per appearance so far this season.


Author: Sam Nelson

Inside NCAA Soccer - Q&A with an Aztec

NCAA programs around the country play a unique role in developing young talented players in the United States. Recently, DSD writer Sam Nelson took a close look at MLS Homegrown players that are breaking into MLS from Youth Development Academies around the country.  However, a significant number of national team prospects, on the men's and women's side, come out of the large pool of NCAA collegiate talent. And even if they don't make it to the national team, college players often find their way into the various levels of professional and amateur soccer in the United States, providing fuel for the progress of U.S. soccer. Also, if Pro/Rel ever becomes a reality in U.S. Soccer, college players will help fill the ranks. DSD writer Justin Perna helps us get a better sense of what is going on in the NCAA game; which programs are performing well or underperforming, where is the brightest talent, and how are players transitioning into the next competitive levels in the game?  

 Dalin Cutler playing with San Diego State University

Dalin Cutler playing with San Diego State University

The Aztec men's soccer program didn’t have the 2017 season they hoped for. However, that didn’t stop current and former players from making the best of the their time in the black and red and pursuing careers in the game beyond the collegiate level.

The Aztec men’s soccer program is the only athletic program at San Diego State University that competes in the Pac 12 during the regular season. The conference includes three-time defending national champion Stanford, perennial power UCLA, along with the university of Washington, Cal, and Oregon State. A small but extremely formable group.

The black and red showed their grit and talent by finishing 3rd in the conference in 2016 (9-5-6; 4-3-3). The regular season was highlighted by a 1-0 home win against then number one ranked University of Akron Zips (I was in attendance). The Aztecs qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2016 losing a heartbreaker at home to UNLV on pks in the opening round. The 2017 Aztecs looked to rebound and improve on the previous year.

That was not the case as the Aztecs battled their way to a 6-13 overall record. But the bright spot then had to come individually as Aztecs from this season and former seasons showed that their time at the Mesa was well spent.

Steven Beitashour, an Aztec from 06-09 was a member of the 2017 MLS Cup champion squad, Toronto FC. He played all 90 in the back line for the cup champs against the Sounders in the final.

This year, the Aztecs had a another stellar senior class led by a number of transfers. Senior Jeroen Meefout, made an immediate impact transferring from University of Maryland two season ago. Winston Soarhaitz and San Diego native Dalin Cutler transferred in two years ago from BYU.


I had a chance to interview Cutler this week. He capped his senior year and 2017 season with a two goal performance, in a 4-0 route of UCLA on senior night at SDDU’s Sportsdeck Field. Cutler finished with 3 goals and 3 assists on the year.

Cutler started his playing career in San Diego where he was a club and high school standout. He was on the TopDrawer Soccer top 100 high school players list, and an ESPN rise top 50 players to watch.

Cutler is a member of the LDS community. His faith led him to BYU to compete in the men’s program and continue with his mission and religious duties. BYU men’s program does not compete in the NCAA, but rather play in the PDL. They are the only NCAA program to do so. After his mission during his sophomore year, Cutler decided to return to San Diego for an opportunity to play in the NCAA. Cutler led the cougars in minutes and shots in both years in the PDL before coming back to San Diego and wearing the Aztec black and red for his remaining years of eligibility. I asked Dalin a few questions about his return to San Diego.

Justin Perna: What was your collegiate and professional expectation in transferring to SDSU?

Dalin Cutler: The whole reason for transferring to San Diego State was to get into the NCAA and play in a conference (PAC 12) that would give me the opportunity to play with and in front of some of the best coaches and players in the nation. BYU was a phenomenal experience for me, but I wanted to give myself, what I thought at the time would be, the best opportunity to play at the next level after college soccer.

JP: What are your current pro prospects or interests after graduation (MLS combine, USL, NASL, international, MASL)?

DC: Right now, I have a few opportunities to play at the next level. Luckily for me, while I was playing at SDSU I was able to meet Ziggy Korytoski while he was an assistant coach. I really grew to appreciate and respect the guy as a person and as a coach. After I graduated, he reached out to me and told me a little bit about his vision for ASC San Diego, a local professional team in San Diego. I made a decision to stick with Ziggy and his staff for now and actually just recently signed a contract to play with them this coming season. Other than that, I was invited to a few combines with the San Jose EarthQuakes, the other pro team in San Diego, 1904 FC and a few trials down in Costa Rica.

JP: What are your thoughts on the future of Aztec Soccer?

DC: I think SDSU has a good group of guys that they can count on over the next few years. If there was one thing I really appreciated at San Diego State, it was the camaraderie and the banter between all the guys on the team. I love those guys, man. I think we were a really close team and I appreciate all the lifelong friends I made during my time there. I think the relationships that they guys have with each other can definitely do some damage in the future.

JP: What was your favorite collegiate memory from SDSU and/or BYU?

DC: My favorite collegiate memory is probably my last game for San Diego State. Scoring two goals against one of our rivals, UCLA, to beat them in the last game of my college career felt awesome. I think it was so special because up to that point, our season was not going the way we had wanted it to go, probably in more ways than one. Although I really enjoyed my time at San Diego State, I wouldn’t say it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, and so scoring two goals in a win against UCLA at the very end was a cool feeling.


Currently, the Aztecs have another loaded class signed for the 2018 campaign and beyond. They have four high school standouts, and seven collegiate transfers including those from ACC and Big 10 powerhouses Syracuse and University of Maryland to help with depth and experience going forward. Three of the incoming players have played with their respective national teams, and the squad will feel confident going into the future. These talented young Aztecs make former players like Cutler, Beitashour, and other Aztec greats happy to be alumni of the program.


Author: Justin Perna

Weekend Countdown - Preview by the Numbers

There are several matches around Europe to keep an eye on this weekend as we transition from Champions League and Europa League drama back to domestic league drama.  Manchester United and Liverpool - separated by two points - renew the rivalry of the Reds at Old Trafford, Inter Milan welcomes Napoli, and Crystal Palace hope to down Chelsea for a third consecutive time.

It's that time of the week, let's count down from 10:

10. Paris Saint Germain will take on Metz on Saturday March 10th at home after losing to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. PSG’s number 10, Neymar, won’t be the only star player who won’t take part in that game. Edinson Cavani will also sit this one out due to yellow card accumulation. The only available player in PSG’s lethal trio up top, Kylian Mbappé, will be the target man on Saturday. He has netted 10 league goals this season. Metz is winless in their last 10 away games against PSG.

9. Bayern Munich’s opponent this weekend is Hamburger SV. Hamburg is on a nine-game winless run and last time the club defeated Bayern was in 2009. Munich’s number 9, Robert Lewandowski, has scored more goals than the entire Hamburg team combined, outscoring them 20 to 18.

8. The first placed team will play the last placed team in Spain as Barcelona travel to Malaga on Saturday. Barca will hope to build on their 8-point advantage over Atletico Madrid. Malaga on the flip side needs eight points and a higher goal differential than Levante to crawl out of the relegation zone. Malaga got the best of Barca the last time they hosted, on April 8th of last year. Neymar was red-carded in the 65th minute of that affair, which Malaga won 2-0.

7. Elsewhere in Spain, Real Madrid’s game this weekend is against eighth-placed Eibar. Eibar haven’t won a game against Madrid in seven outings. CR7 will be hoping to score in his seventh consecutive game while Eibar’s top scorer, Charles, will be battling Los Blancos’ defenders for his seventh goal of the season.

6. In the Serie A, Juventus is playing host to Udinese at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday. Juve has been carrying an unbeaten run in the Serie A since Nov. 26th. Last time the two clubs met, Juve scored six goals on Udinese despite playing down a man after a Mario Mandzukic red card in the 26th minute. The game ended 6-2 in favor of The Old Lady, with Khedira grabbing a hat-trick.

5. Over in Germany, Borussia Dortmund will fight to avoid a painful five-game non winning run in a home match against Eintracht Frankfurt. Michy Batshuayi, who scored five goals in his first month with BVB, hasn’t found the net in five games.

4. Liverpool is traveling to Old Trafford on Saturday with the goal of going on a four-game winning run in away matches. The Reds from Merseyside haven’t conceded a goal in that away-win stretch. The last four meetings between the two English juggernauts ended in draws. Jose Mourinho will push his players to break that streak by inflicting a fourth league loss on Jurgen Klopp’s men. If Liverpool loses, they could drop to fourth in the table.

3. Back in Italy, Inter is hosting league toppers Napoli on Sunday for the Serie A’s most anticipated match of the weekend. Inter hasn’t recorded a goal in their last three outings against Napoli. However, the club has a solid home record; the last time they lost at the San Siro was three months ago. Serie A third-leading-scorer Dries Mertens will be looking to score a goal in his third straight match for Napoli.

2. Arsenal broke out of the losing run they started on Feb. 22nd with a 2-0 victory over Milan in the Europa League during the midweek. Their next game is at home against Watford, a side that’s on a confident two-game winning run thanks to Troy Deeney’s two goals in those two matches.

1. After losing 1-0 to Manchester City last week, Chelsea has a home game against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Palace lost their last outing by one goal to Manchester United thanks to a last-minute Matic strike that will be a candidate for goal of the season. The Eagles upset Chelsea in both of their last two meetings, 2-1 on both occasions. Wilfried Zaha netted one goal in each of those previous two meetings.


Author: Onz Chery




Chairman of the Bored - Why is Burnley so Good at Being Bad?

Burnley have won just a single match in their last 12 Premier League outings. Burnley have scored a mere six goals since the new year started. Burnley are on track to finish the season barely eking over the 30 goals for mark (31.448 to be exact). Burnley are...going to be playing European football next year?

What a glorious anomaly and anti-advertisement for the beautiful game Sean Dyche’s side have been. In a year where all the plaudits have (deservedly) gone to high-flying and higher-scoring Manchester City, and individual praise has been heaped upon such scoring machines as Mo Salah and Harry Kane, how ironic it is to see success in the form of a club that has scored fewer goals than either of those men have managed on their own (in all competitions).

And succeed they have! Despite their current poor run of form, they maintain a solid grip on the seventh place position, which, assuming the FA Cup is won by a side that finish in the top six, will send Burnley into the Europa League. Picture the gleam of those Thursday night floodlights reflecting off Dyche’s bald head as the Englishman shouts at keeper Nick Pope to “HOOF IT CLEAR, LAD!” Burnley holding on to a trademark one-nil lead against...Milan? Leipzig? Dortmund? Scenes! Absolute scenes!

The Wheels on the Bus…don’t Go ‘Round

But what brought us here? How have we as a collective footballing culture allowed this to happen? Do we -- as we should in most things -- blame Mourinho? No, no, let’s give credit where it’s due: Sean Dyche has turned boredom into an art. A cold, calculated science transformed into a symphony of disappointment for away fans (and neutrals hoping for any form of entertainment, of course).

Dyche has set his side up with the same basic four at the back structure every match this season, which quickly transitions to eight or more at the back as soon as the opposition gains possession. This, of course, ends up being most of the 90 minutes, as Burnley sit third from the bottom on the possession charts, averaging a meager 42.5% per match. They allow the opponent to dictate the flow of the game, waiting patiently in their banks of four until a mistake is made.

More often than not, this comes in the form of an ill-fated shot from outside the box. Burnley allow more shots per game than any other side in the Prem at 15.7, but hardly any of them are liable to trouble Pope in goal as their defensive discipline forces frustrated shots from distance; 45% of the shots they face come from outside the box.

Their defenders are also quick to throw their bodies on the line, averaging a league-leading 5.4 shots blocked per match. The proverbial bus parked in front of the Burnley net has the emergency brake on, and blocks beneath the wheels, resulting in the fourth fewest goals conceded this season.

The Goal is not the Goal

When one can almost expect a clean sheet, all that’s needed to take the full three points is a single goal, and Burnley have done their best to live up to that expectation. Burnley have scored that solitary goal in 12 of their Premier League matches this year, and have taken an impressive 24 out of a possible 36 points from them.

In fact, the Clarets have managed multiple goals in a match only five times all season, and, a Boxing Day draw with Manchester United aside, they have won every one of them.

Who’s scoring these lonely goals, though? Well, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood lead the side with an almost impressively unremarkable five goals each. Sam Vokes sits third with three, and in fact, only eight goals have come from those outside of the Burnley front three. As patient as they are on defense, they nearly match themselves on offense, having scored precisely zero goals on the counter attack. It takes a while to put the bus into drive.

Good at Being Bad

So, how do they stack up to the brightest of the boring in Premier League history? Should they fail to hit that 30 goal mark, which is looking more and more possible as the year goes on, they’d join the illustrious ranks of only two other sides to have survived relegation and scored so infrequently:

  • 2001-02’s Sunderland, who finished one place safe in 17th, having scored five goals in their last nine matches

  • 2006-07’s Manchester City, (yes, young readers, there was a time when the blue half of Manchester was largely irrelevant), whose leading goal scorer on the year was schoolyard bully Joey Barton, his whopping six league goals leading City to the relative comfort of 14th place

Neither of these sides had the chance at European glory on the horizon, however. Indeed, the former’s luck would run out the following year, Sunderland finishing bottom of the table with 21 goals scored, and 19 points accrued.

City on the other hand were only two years away from an influx of oil money that would assure they could buy their way out of such goal droughts for years to come.

Overall, the ground Burnley are walking on is largely untread. Success in the Premier League has historically been dependent on goal scoring prowess, but Sean Dyche is looking more and more likely to turn that trend around.

Will others follow in his footsteps? Total football replaced by total defense? Will Burnley’s eleven men behind the ball take Europe by storm, becoming the new “continental” fashion? God, I hope not. But hey, if it works, it works. Hoof it clear, lad!


Author: Busby Cagle


5 Headlines From the First Weekend of MLS Action

MLS is back! Fans have had to wait for what felt like forever, unless they are Toronto fans, in which case it was a short offseason with lots of celebrations. While not every team played, there was a lot of action packed into the 10 fixtures.

Daily Soccer Digest’s MLS expert and host of the Soccer Soup Podcast, Sam Nelson, breaks down the action in U.S. Soccer’s top flight.  Stay tuned for analysis from around the league each week. 

Here are the 5 most important takeaways from week 1:

1) Tyler Miller Does Not Miss His Friends in Seattle

When the LAFC expansion draft happened in December, it was Tyler Miller - the Sounders backup GK - who was picked up by LA to become the new number 1. This might have come as a surprise to some, because other goalkeeper options in the expansion draft were more desirable, including David Ousted, of Vancouver at the time. Miller was well known in Seattle as Stefan Frei’s backup, playing primarily in the US Open Cup, as well as coming in for Frei during the playoffs this past season, and playing very well. That playoff appearance might have been the light that Bob Bradley wanted for his number 1 GK, and Miller came into preseason already sitting at number one on the LAFC depth chart.

It seemed fitting that LAFC’s inaugural MLS match should be played in Seattle against Miller’s former team. Miller was heading back with a chip on his shoulder, always the number 2 to Stephan Frei, and ready to show that he deserved a chance. Miller had to come up big a number of times, making 4 saves on the day. His biggest save came in the 12th minute on a beautifully taken volley by Seattle fullback Nouhou.  The shot skipped across the turf towards the far corner, but Miller pushed it aside skillfully.  Miller ended the game with a clean sheet, making LAFC’s first game an exciting one, and proving that he deserves to be a number 1 goalkeeper in MLS.

2) The Crew Does Not Care What Precourt Wants

As just about every American soccer fan knows at this point, Anthony Precourt, the owner of Columbus Crew SC, has made plans to move his team from Ohio to Austin, TX. This news began coming out during the playoffs last season, and it might have helped propel the Crew to their Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Since Columbus was knocked out of the playoffs, more news has come out about the move, but it still is very unclear what is actually going to happen to Crew SC at the end of the season. 

The Ohio Attorney General filed a lawsuit on Monday against Precourt Sports Ventures and MLS, “...to protect Ohio taxpayers’ interests...”  We will be following Ohio v. Precourt as the story unfolds.

That being said, the players are not too concerned with the front office shenanigans right now, because they want to prove their worth on the field. Columbus came out ready for the challenge against defending champs Toronto FC and they earned a 2-0 victory in Toronto. Gyasi Zardes, in his first outing for the Crew, scored a goal to open his campaign, hoping to reignite his career and prove that he is the player he was a few seasons ago. It is a long season, but things started out well for Columbus and company in 2018.

3) Surprise! It’s the Union!

When analysts came up with their preseason predictions for the league, one of the teams that typically found their way to the bottom of the eastern conference was the Philadelphia Union. The Union did not have a stellar offseason it would seem, with the only big name addition being David Accam from Chicago. The other players brought in were 3 homegrown signings, one player from USL, and a loaned in midfielder. Most people were writing off the Union, saying their front office did not know what they were doing.


“This team is so deep. There is a lot of healthy competitiveness in every single spot.  I know once I get an opportunity, I have to take it.  Thankfully, I feel I did pretty well tonight.”

– Anthony Fontana on his MLS Debut

The Union came out flying on Saturday night against New England. The Revolution created a few chances early on but could not find the back of the net.  The Revs struggled with the speed of Accam and CJ Sapong, especially with quality distribution coming from Alejandro Bedoya and Philadelphia Homegrown talent, Anthony Fontana. 18-year-old Fontana had an excellent MLS debut and he will be a youngster to watch develop into a professional this season. 

It may have been a closer contest had Antonio Milnar not earned a red card in the 21st minute. The absence of the starting center back opened the door for the Union to come in and steal 3 points in week 1. Claude Dielna, the other starting Center Back for New England, was also sent off for a second yellow in the 86th minute. 20 minutes after the first red card, Anthony Fontana tapped home the eventual game-winner, starting the season strong for Philly and taking one step towards proving the analysts wrong. C.J. Sapong would later slot home the Union’s second to put the game out of reach for New England. Although no one is particularly high on the Revs this season, for Philadelphia to come out and dominate a game like they did this past weekend says a lot about what they can do moving forward this season.

4) Are MLS Attendance Numbers for Real?

Ever since talk began of the Crew moving away from Columbus due to low attendance, MLS followers have been more aware of the announced attendance numbers around the league. It seems that these numbers are manipulated based on what the league wants people believe. For example, the Philadelphia Union had an announced attendance of 16,452 for their season opener against New England. The Union’s home ground, Talon Energy Stadium, has a maximum capacity of 18,500, which would indicate that the stadium was about 89% full. Photos from fans at the game show many empty seats, including whole sections of seats without people.

This was also seen in Houston, where the announced attendance from the league for the Dynamo’s home opener against Atlanta was 20,377. Houston’s home stadium holds a capacity of 22,000 people, meaning the stadium should have been 91% full. Fans, who again have pictures of a primarily empty stadium, aren’t buying it.

It is understandable that the league would want to have large numbers of fans attending games, and it would sound better to a fan looking to go to a game in Houston that they would be joined by 20,000 people as opposed to 9,000. It is a business move that the league has been known to do in the past, where they adjust the numbers to appear to be growing. In Orlando, gate receipts say that only 4,000 people would be at certain games while the league would claim 8-10k at games. “Business metrics” like these, as Don Garber would say, are ways of showing which cities are doing better than others and challenging others to do better. Unfortunately, it just makes the league look bad when numbers do not add up with turnstile numbers and photographs.

5) Homegrown Player of the Week: Alphonso Davies

MLS homegrown players are not just important in each club's roster, but the communities around them as well. Having a player who comes from the area a team is based in is something everyone likes to see. Producing homegrown talent is also an indication that youth development systems are working. This week, 26 homegrown players made appearances for their teams, out of 105 homegrown players rostered in total.  Last week, we selected the DSD MLS Homegrown XI.

The homegrown player with the biggest impact in Week 1 was Alphonso Davies, the 17-year-old winger for Vancouver. With his blistering speed and vision Davies notched an assist and then scored his first MLS goal, leading Vancouver to a 2-1 victory over Montreal. This comes after a great preseason for Davies. It appears that he will be playing at this high level every week for the Whitecaps this season.


Author: Sam Nelson

Remembering Davide Astori

Davide  Astori: January 7, 1987 - March 4, 2018


We woke up this past Sunday to the heartbreaking news that Davide Astori tragically died from a "sudden illness" while he slept in his team hotel room during Fiorentina’s away trip to Udinese.  It was a jolting reminder that the game we watch every weekend is played by human beings like ourselves; they have families, friends, and life outside of the 90 minutes that we get to enjoy them play each week.  Astori is survived by his longtime partner Francesca, and two-year-old daughter Vittoria. 

Fiorentina and Cagliari - where Astori spent most of his professional career - have both retired Astori’s number 13 jersey, cementing his place in Italian football memory.  Astori also earned 14 appearances with the national team.

The Serie A fixtures scheduled for last Sunday were all postponed. This week, stadiums in the Serie A, as well as the Champions League and Europa League, will hold a moment of silence to honor the Fiorentina Captain.  

The collective response from the soccer community was one of shock and heartache.  The 31-year-old enjoyed a successful career that was defined by his good-natured approach to the game, his loyalty, and the relationships that he built with teammates, coaches and fans. Outpourings of condolence and love were displayed at the gates of the Stadio Artemio Franchi as the club and supporters grappled with the loss of their captain. 

 Davide Astori with teammate Riccardo Saponara

Davide Astori with teammate Riccardo Saponara

It is impossible to understand the impact of such a loss or to even come close to putting it into words.  In such a dark moment though, some truly inspiring words have emerged.  The global soccer community suffers together.  Anyone who has dealt with sudden loss will empathize with the suffering that Astori’s family and close ones are going through now.  

The message below from Astori's teammate, Riccardo Saponara, brings this moment into perspective and illuminates the life that Davide Astori lived.

"O captain, my captain. Why did you not come down to have breakfast with us all? Why did you not pick up your shoes from outside of Marco [Sportiello]'s room and then drink your orange juice, as usual?

Now they'll tell us that life goes on, that we must look forward and pick ourselves up, but what will your absence feel like? Who will arrive every morning in the cafeteria, warming up everyone with his smile?

Who will ask us about what we did the previous night and have a laugh about it? Who will nurture the youngsters and give a sense of responsibility to the veterans? Who will form the circle to work on our 'two-touch play' and who will demolish Marco on the PlayStation?

With whom will we debate about Masterchef, Florence's restaurants, TV series or games played? Who will I lean on at lunch after a tiring training session? Come on, come back. You still need to finish watching LaLaLand to analyse like you did with all new movies.

Come back to Florence, they're waiting for you to renew your contract and acknowledge all the good and the positivity that you bring to us on a daily basis. Get out of that damn room, we'll be waiting for you tomorrow at training.

In life there are people you've known forever but have never bonded with, and then there are the 'Davides', who warm to you immediately with a simple 'welcome to Florence, Ricky'.

Wherever you are now, keep on defending our goal and enlighten the right path for us from the backline.

Oh captain, my captain. Forever, my captain."

- Riccardo Saponara



Author: Nick Barron

Weekend Preview by the Numbers – March Kicks off with Ten Massive Matchups

European soccer never runs out of massive fixtures. Last weekend, Manchester United topped Chelsea, Roma fell to Milan, and Marseille couldn’t keep up with Paris Saint-Germain. This weekend has even more mouth-watering fixtures.

The Derby di Milano takes place in Italy on Sunday. The top two teams in Spain meet at the Camp Nou on Sunday as well, as Barcelona hosts Atletico Madrid.  Napoli has an encounter with Roma, Lazio is playing Juventus, Manchester City is taking on Chelsea at home and… the Derby of the Eternal Adversaries – the most anticipated match-up in the Greek Superleague – will take place between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos.

Take ten minutes out of your day to read this weekend's Preview by The Numbers:

10. Real Madrid will look to bounce back from their loss to Espanyol with a win over 10th placed Getafe. Getafe defeated Deportivo de La Coruna in their last outing but hasn’t earned a win over Los Blancos in 10 years.

9. Borussia Dortmund is on a nine-game winning run. Their next match is against RB Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena in Germany – a place where they have never defeated Leipzig. Last time they met, both sides were reduced to nine field players as red cards were issued to Papastathopoulos for Dortmund and Ilsanker for Leipzig. Late 90s baby Timo Werner leads The Bulls in scoring, while Marco Reus is the player to watch for the Black and Yellows; he has netted twice in their last three outings and performed an odd Liverpool tribute celebration recently.

8. Still in Germany, Bayern Munich is planning to inflict an eighth league loss on Freiburg. It won't be an easy one for Munich as most would expect though; Freiburg has been one of Bayern’s toughest away opponents. It took an injury time goal from Robert Lewandowski for Bayern to beat Freiburg last time they met at Schwarzwald-Stadion and in the previous two meetings there Munich lost and tied. Number 18 Nils Petersen leads Freiburg in scoring and Lewandowski is still the marksman for Bayern, despite a training ground bust-up with Mats Hummels in the midweek.

7. Napoli could go seven points over Juventus at the top of the table with a win over Roma, who will be fighting to avoid a painful seventh league loss. Napoli number 17, Marek Hamsik, is doubtful to play due to illness (the flu). But the club’s top scorer this season Dries Mertens will be available. Mertens will be hoping to score his 17th Serie A goal.

6. Elsewhere in Italy, A.C. Milan will host Internazionale at the San Siro on Sunday. ACM hasn't lost or conceded a goal in six outings. Meanwhile Inter will be hoping to record their first win streak of the year. The second youngest player in A.C. Milan’s roster, Patrick Cutrone, leads Milan in scoring in domestic competition. Cutrone has six Serie A goals to his name.

5. Liverpool will take on 15th placed Newcastle at Anfield this weekend. The Reds are on a five-game unbeaten run while Newcastle have only won a single match – against Manchester United – in their last five. It won’t be an easy game to get to for the Newcastle fans; according to The Echo, the M-62 is closed between junctions 21-24 westbound and police are asking people not to travel unless it’s really needed.

Newcastle sporting website The Mag called on Liverpool to refund tickets to Newcastle fans who can’t make the game. Despite the outrageous weather in Newcastle, Rafa Benitez was spotted wearing shorts at training on Friday.

4. Juventus will attempt to lessen their four-point gap under Napoli with a win against Lazio. Juve is leading Lazio by 14 points. However, Lazio already defeated Juventus twice this season, with Ciro Immobile scoring four goals. The Old Lady’s Serie A top-scorer, Gonzalo Higuain, is unlikely to play due to an ankle injury. Higuain has netted 14 league-goals for Juve.

3. Following their dominating 3-0 win over Arsenal, Manchester City is welcoming Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. A loss or a tie will drop The Blues to three straight winless games.

2. Atletico, currently second in La Liga, can cut their gap below Barcelona to just 2 points with a win over the Blaugrana this Sunday. The last two matches between these two clubs ended in draws. Antoine Griezmann has scored seven goals in his last two matches (three against Sevilla and four against Leganes). Griezmann said he wants to “score and celebrate” at the Camp Nou. Barcelona wants to sign the French striker, which, according to Diario Gol, Lionel Messi is not happy about.

1. It’s going to be a hot weekend in Greece as the Derby of the Eternal Enemies between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos will be played on Sunday. It’s the most notable matchup in Greek football, however neither club is currently in first place. The last two Eternal Adversaries derbies finished 1-1.


Author: Onz Chery

Fantasy Five - Tips for your Fantasy Premier League team 3/1/18

England is in the grip of its coldest weather for several years, with snow expected into Saturday for many parts of the country. That might mean some unpredictable conditions on Premier League pitches across the country, and a test of every team’s adaptability. Barely anyone can afford a bad performance though, as – aside from the team in 1 st place – this is one of the tightest league tables in years. So who will shine in the winter snow as we enter the last 10 games of the season? Here to help you work that out are our friends at Armchair Fancast – the weekly podcast discussing all the latest happenings from the Premier League –with their top five player picks for your FPL team this week! Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here, and follow them on Twitter here!

  1. Andrew Robertson (LIV, £4.8): Liverpool’s young Scotsman has quietly been making the most of the opportunity afforded to him at left back over the past few months by Alberto Moreno’s injury, and last week he provided his second assist of the season. The Reds are unbeaten at Anfield in the Premier League this season, and although opponents Newcastle have one of the better away records of the teams currently fighting relegation, there is no reason to think defeat is on the cards for Klopp’s men here. Robertson is therefore an excellent, in-form budget pick.
  2. Ben Davies (TOT, £5.8): Speaking of in-form left backs, Ben Davies is making a pretty solid case for inclusion in the Premier League team of the year. The Welshman has scored the maximum 3 bonus points for his FPL managers twice in the past five gameweeks, during which time he has also picked up two assists and three clean sheets. Tottenham host Huddersfield this weekend – a team who had failed to score in three consecutive away games before their win at West Brom last week.
  3. Manuel Lanzini (WHU, £6.6): Remember how brilliantly the relationship between Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini was developing in January before both got injured? Well, now they’re both fighting fit again, and that’s got to be bad news for West Ham’s upcoming opponents. Games against Swansea, Burnley and Southampton in the next four weeks all look very promising on paper if these two can quickly rediscover the chemistry they had earlier in the winter.
  4. David Silva (MCI, £7.9): He’s had a difficult second half of the season, with only three times in the last ten gameweeks that he has managed a full 90 minutes, but David Silva has shown in two games against Arsenal this week just how effective he can be. A home game against an inconsistent Chelsea provides a good opportunity for him to bag a third goal in seven days, as City cruise towards the Premier League title.
  5. Troy Deeney (WAT, £6.3): The arrival of Javi Gracia at Watford has pushed club captain Troy Deeney to an upturn in form, with a goal in two of the Hornets’ last three games. This week they host rock-bottom West Brom, against whom Deeney scored in this same fixture last year. Potentially difficult trips to Arsenal and Liverpool follow this weekend, but for now at least, Deeney is an excellent choice at a low price.

Author: Dave Bradshaw

Eleven Homegrown MLS Players to Watch in 2018/19

The MLS season starts this weekend.  Ever since the U.S. Men failed to qualify for the World Cup, everything surrounding the game in the United States has been called into question.  We still don’t have Pro/Rel, but there is plenty of talent emerging from development academies around the country.  Below, we select our starting eleven from the growing pool of bright young talent entering the 2018/19 season on (mostly) fresh Homegrown Player contracts.

American fans love to see American players do well. The best thing to see in MLS is young Americans getting quality minutes and doing well. MLS understands this, and has given clubs an incentive to produce homegrown players at the highest level. The homegrown player rule paves the way for teams to sign local players who have played in their youth academy system. This is an attractive prospect for players, clubs, and fans.  Fans want to see their local boys stay local, and homegrown contracts do not count against the MLS salary cap; clubs save money by staying with their homegrown talent, players are given a direct pathway to the first team, and fans have an investment in the player pool.

The Homegrown Player mechanism began in 2008. Prior to the creation of the rule, all players had to be drafted through the MLS SuperDraft. Homegrown players can be any nationality as long as they have played in the academy system and have lived in the local area of their respective club for at least one year. Currently, there are 106 players with homegrown contracts in the league, mostly signed within the past 3 seasons.

The list compiled below includes some of the best and brightest the league has to offer at a young age; none of these players can legally purchase alcohol in the U.S. (except for Justen Glad, Happy 21st Justen!). It can be hard for young players to find meaningful playing time at the professional level, but with more young players getting experience at the international level – with youth national teams and the full team – managers should consider the benefits of working with young local talent. It would be nice to hear more “He’s one of our own” chants in MLS stadiums.

Homegrown XI (2.28.18).pptx.jpg

Ayo Akinola | Toronto FC | 18 years old | Forward/Wing | Hometown: Brampton, Ontario

“Ayo is the third product of the full player pathway designed at Toronto FC, playing within our academy to playing for TFC II and now the first team...Ayo is a versatile player that can play as a number nine or out wide. For a player at such a young age, he has a lot of physical attributes that include pace and strength as well as technical ability." 

- Toronto FC Sr. Vice President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko

Ayo Akinola signed for TFC in December 2017, coming off a big U17 World Cup with the US, where he scored one goal and played very well on the wing. Before signing with Toronto, Akinola had a trial at Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in November. Ayo has the ability to play out on the wings or play centrally as a striker. US fans should be excited to see Ayo get signed, but it is unlikely that he will see much, if any, playing time with the TFC first team. It is more likely that he will be a starter at TFCII this season, which will bring a wealth of experience and game time for him to develop this coming season. With all TFCII games being streamed on YouTube, fans should tune in to watch Akinola develop into a professional this coming season.

Alphonso Davies | Vancouver Whitecaps | 17 years old | Winger | Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta | Birthplace: Buduburam, Ghana

The Whitecaps have one of the best young players in the league, if not the best. Davies could be the best product to ever come out of Canada, already having scored 3 goals in 6 caps for the full men’s national team. Davies became the first player born in the 2000’s to play a match in MLS in July 2016, and the third youngest MLS player ever. Davies is fast, very fast; there are videos of him out running whole teams and running the length of the field to score. Davies has played in MLS, the Canadian Championships, the CONCACAF Champions League, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has scored in 4 of those 5 competitions. Davies is the kind of player that has attracted lots of attention from European clubs, including Manchester United. For now, Alphonso Davies is playing in MLS, and this season could be his breakout year, already having 34 MLS appearances, he will look to show the league why Vancouver is a force. Surprisingly, Davies does not yet have a league goal, but it does not appear that he will have that hanging over his head much longer.

Andrew Carleton | Atlanta United | 17 years old | Winger | Hometown: Powder Springs, Georgia

Most American soccer fans at this point know who Andrew Carleton is, and if you have not heard of him yet, his YouTube highlight reel is worth a watch. Carleton is a young American winger who has been dubbed the “MLS Pulisic” by many sources. He has the ability to run at defenses with pace and vision, and can put the ball into the net well too. This past season, much like many other players on this list, Andrew was with the U17 national team and did not get many opportunities with Atlanta United. He made his first appearance in May of 2017, getting 4 minutes against Houston. If this article had been written a few weeks prior, it might be saying that Carleton will be spending his whole season at Atlanta United II, where he would be getting more playing time and experience. However, Carleton had a preseason with Atlanta that many people said was one of the best they have seen. It is currently unclear what Tata Martino will choose to do with Carleton, but if he can earn those highly valued minutes in MLS this season it would go a long way for his long-term trajectory. The first few weeks of the season will be crucial to see where Carleton will spend his season.

Isaac Angking | New England Revolution | 18 years old | Midfielder | Hometown: Providence, RI

“If he really applies himself, there’s no telling how good he could become.”

- New England Revolution Head Coach, Brad Friedel

Angking signed with New England just after the new year, and joined the first team right away. The midfielder from Providence, RI is the second youngest homegrown player in New England, after Diego Fagundez. Angking has spent a lot of time with US youth national teams, including the U17 residency program in Florida, where he played with Josh Sargent and Ayo Akinola. Angking will be fighting for first team minutes this season, and will try and impress new head coach Brad Fridel, who will look to improve over the dismal season they had last year. Isaac will bring youth and excitement to a team that should be better than they are. This will be a year where fans can see Isaac fight for minutes, pushing himself to be a better player and helping New England get out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Eryk Williamson | Portland Timbers | 20 years old | Midfielder | Birthplace: Alexandria, VA

Williamson is an interesting player, in that he has never played for the Timbers academy, but is still a homegrown player. Eryk played for the DC United academy before joining the University of Maryland, College Park to play college soccer for 3 seasons. In 58 games in 3 seasons, he scored 14 goals and assisted 13 more, leading the Terps to great regular season performances, which unfortunately never translated to good play in the NCAA tournament. Williamson played on the US U20 National Team at the U20 CONCACAF qualification and U20 world cup this past season, where he had a goal and 2 assists in 12 appearances. It is unclear what Eryk’s best position on the field is, having played on the wing, up front at striker, and as a center midfielder in various positions in the past year alone. Portland traded for Williamson’s rights from DC United at the end of January, and he will be able to start fresh on a new team, with a new coach to impress. Fans are hopeful that Williamson will find a position and stick to it, because once he does, it is believed he can flourish at it.

Chris Durkin | DC United | 18 years old | Midfielder/Defender | Hometown: Glenn Allen, Virginia


"I think guys like Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic have set a standard, and I think it's a standard I can achieve." 

- Chris Durkin

Chris Durkin is a player who many have said is one of, if not the best, player to come out of the US U17 National Team from the 2017 World Cup. That is high praise, considering players like Carleton, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah were on that team as well. Durkin brings strength and a high soccer IQ to defensive midfield, and that is something that takes a lot of time to develop. Durkin has been around the first team for DC United in the past, but this season will be the first time he will be with the team for the full year. United made many central midfield signings over the break, and some think that will be a large disadvantage to Durkin. With only 2 holding midfielders currently on the roster though, Durkin has an opportunity to show why he belongs on the field. Durkin made his professional debut against West Bromwich Albion in 2015 and played against Swansea City this past year as well during both teams’ American tour games against the Richmond Kickers of USL. Fans can look forward to Durkin getting minutes this season, which will include his MLS debut as well.  

Reggie Cannon | FC Dallas | 19 years old | Defender/Right Back | Hometown: Grapevine, TX

One of the many homegrown players from FC Dallas, Reggie Cannon will be standing out from the rest this coming season. Cannon signed for FCD in December of 2016, and made his professional debut in the US Open Cup in June of 2017. Much like Carleton, it was not clear if he would be seeing many minutes for the club this season, but after preseason it has become clear that this year fans will be seeing more Reggie Cannon at the right back position than expected. Cannon started in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 first leg against Tauro FC, where he played well, overlapping down the right flank and making trouble for the opposing defense. This will be Cannon’s first full season with the first team and he is sure to get minutes for a strong Dallas team looking to avenge last season’s dismal record. American fans will have a lot to be excited about watching Cannon play this coming season.

Marco Farfan | Portland Timbers | 19 years old | Left Back/Defender | Hometown: Gresham, OR

The first homegrown player to play for Portland, and the youngest player to ever start a game for the Timbers, Marco Farfan is an exciting player with a lot of talent. Farfan has played left back for both the first team and Timbers 2, where he was named one of the top 20 players under 20 in the USL in his one season with the team. Marco moved up to the first team in 2017, playing in 6 games and getting 403 minutes total. For an 18-year-old in a Portland team that has high expectations in the West, it was a good start to the season. He was later loaned back to Timbers 2 where he played in 9 more games that season. Farfan will likely not be the starting left back for Portland this season, but fans can expect good minutes for him this season, especially if the Timbers need depth in defense. This experience will go a long way in Marco’s development as a fullback, a position that the US seems to not develop players well in.

James Sands | New York City FC | 17 years old | Defender | Birthplace: Rye, New York

James Sands is a defender who could develop into a Matt Besler-type player in time. Sands signed his homegrown deal with NYCFC in June of 2017, becoming their first homegrown signing ever. He played one game last season, subbing in for Pirlo in September of that season. Sands spent much of his time away from NYCFC as he was training with the US U17 National Team in preparation for the U17 World Cup. Sands was the only out and out center back included on the World Cup roster, and he played every game for the U17s, anchoring a back line that only allowed 3 goals in the group stages, and had 3 clean sheets in 5 games. Sands has been included in preseason squads with New York City and has been getting playing time in the games as well. It would appear that he will be with Patrick Vieira’s team this season, but it is unlikely that he will start many games. Minutes may be sparse, but James Sands will be well worth watching this season as he gains experience to become a top defender.

Justen Glad | Real Salt Lake | 21 years old | Defender | Hometown: Tucson, AZ

"Justen has such an amazing head on his shoulders...He is wise beyond his years and I really mean that. On the field with the ball at his feet and playing, he is to me at his age the best center back in this country."

- RSL Head Coach, Mike Petke

RSL have some of the best young Americans in the league getting consistent minutes right now. Justen Glad is no exception, having racked up 53 appearances for RSL in 3 years at center back. Glad started 18 games last season, missing some time because of the U20 World Cup that took place in May. Glad earned a call-up to the USMNT January Camp in 2018, but still hasn’t earned his first cap yet. As a 19-year-old, Justen started 27 games for RSL, scoring 2 goals and assisting one as well. Glad plays solid at the back, and although he is one of the oldest players on this list, he is a young player who is gaining large amounts of experience playing in MLS. If you get the chance to see Glad play, he is well worth the time.

JT Marcinkowski | San Jose Earthquakes | 20 years old | Goalkeeper | Hometown: Alamo, CA

Marcinkowski is a brand new homegrown player, having signed for San Jose in December. JT leaves Georgetown University, where he played in 56 games over 3 years, holding a 0.84 goals against average in the process. Marcinkowski is the 3rd homegrown signing for San Jose, and will be competing for minutes this coming season. It is unclear currently if he will be staying with San Jose or moving on loan to their USL affiliate in Reno. He played a preseason game with Reno against Seattle, and held a shutout against the MLS side. While in college, Marcinkowski played for the US U20 team that played in the U20 World Cup. He did not see the field, however, and was the backup to Jonathan Klinsmann, who is currently playing for Hertha Berlin in Germany. If loaned to Reno in USL, it is likely that Marcinkowski will be the number 1 keeper, and will be worth watching. Getting quality minutes early in his career will go a long way towards Marcinkowski reaching his full potential.

These 11 players are just a small sample of the 100+ homegrown players in MLS this season, and more could still be signed. While it is a long season, and it is unlikely that all these players will be starting every single game, it will be exciting to watch these young men fight for minutes and develop as professional players with their respective teams.


Author: Sam Nelson

Midweek Matchups - Three Headlines from the Champions League

Champions League Round of 16 (Leg 1, week 2) Recap      

The first leg fixtures of the Champions League Round of 16 are complete. Similar to week one, week two was highlighted by a pulsating matchup with Chelsea and Barcelona taking center stage in London. Bayern Munich cruised to a comfortable victory after an early Besiktas red card, Shakhtar secured a home win over Roma, and Sevilla v. Manchester United provided the first goalless draw in an otherwise free scoring knockout round.

Here are the top stories that emerged during the midweek:

1) Chelsea’s strong tactics cancelled out by one mistake against Barca

Anonio Conte got his tactics spot on as Chelsea impressed for most of the match, but one mistake was all it took for Barcelona to capitalize and secure a vital away goal in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

For all of the possession (73%) and completed passes (566 more than Chelsea), Barcelona failed to create clear cut chances against an organized and solid Chelsea defense. Chelsea set up deep, inviting Barca’s pressure and the blues were happy to have the Catalans possess without posing much danger to Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois for most of the match.

Chelsea did especially well to neutralize the impact of Suarez and Messi while growing into the game through Hazard and Willian, their most influential attacking players. Willian was denied by both posts in the first half after brilliant strikes had Ter Stegen beaten.

But Willian wasn’t denied in the second half, breaking the deadlock via a clever finish from 18 yards through traffic. His goal electrified the home crowd and set up an exciting finish. While Chelsea looked set for a fantastic result, Barca found a way back as Andres Iniesta pounced on an errant pass out of the back by Christensen. Iniesta then cut back to Messi who slotted into the back of the net from 12 yards – his first goal in 9 games against Chelsea.

Chelsea will feel hard done after an impressive display. Conte spoke about his teams performance stating, “I think we were close to playing the perfect performance. We did one mistake but we know very well against these opponents and players like Messi, Iniesta and Suarez, if you make a mistake you pay. It is a pity and we are disappointed with the final result.”

Chelsea face a difficult schedule ahead of the second leg at the Nou Camp with upcoming games against Manchester United and Manchester City. Conte’s squad rotation will be crucial as the battle for top 4 in England is far from being decided. Meanwhile, Barcelona has a tough test of their own, as they host rivals Atletico Madrid in a top-of-the-table La Liga showdown. Barca were persistent in leg 1 and will be relieved to have the narrow advantage going into the decisive second leg.

2) Underdogs Shakhtar and Sevilla impress at home

Shakhtar and Sevilla both impressed at home in their respective leg one ties. While other teams outside of the top 5 domestically have struggled in the knockout round, Shakhtar earned a decisive victory. In fact, only a clearance off the goal line kept their lead at one goal as the Ukranian squad created a flurry of chances as the game ended.

Roma’s man of the moment, Cengiz Under, latched on to an inch-perfect through ball by Eden Dzcko to give the Italian side the lead in the 41st minute. Shakhtar responded after the interval leveling the score in the 52nd minute (Facundo Ferreyra) before capping their comeback through a breathtaking free-kick winner curled in by Brazilian international Fred.

Two of the best players on the pitch stood between the posts on either end.  The goalkeepers - Pyatov for Shakhtar and Alisson for Roma – were outstanding. Alisson has been the topic of transfer rumors and if Roma can’t secure his contract soon he will be a big name to follow as the summer transfer window nears. 

Could Shakhtar become the only side outside of the top 5 in league to advance to the quarterfinals?

Sevilla and Manchester United played to a feisty 0-0 stalemate in Spain, setting up potential drama at the Theater of Dreams on March 13th.

Questions will be asked of Jose Mourinho’s tactics including a selection surprise by leaving record signing Paul Pogba on the bench, further adding to their discord and rumors that he’s on his way out of his boyhood club again. Fans will not be impressed with the style of play. United‘s performance was highlighted by another world class De Gea save, a resilient but labored defensive display and a failure to create chances in a lackluster affair. Pogba was introduced after Herrera suffered a first half injury. Rashford and Martial were also brought on late in the second half to inject pace and perhaps find a late winner, but were unable to orchestrate a goal.

Sevilla deserves credit after finishing the game with 25 attempts on goal and will be disappointed to not have capitalized. Their coach, Vincenzo Montella, added “I am very happy with the character shown by the team. We have to be pleased with the performance. The 0-0 leaves everything open.”

Mourinho reacted post-game adding, ­­­­­­­“I really feel the result reflected what the game was - you ask me was it a good result, and I say it was not good and not bad.” United will certainly be the happier side, returning to Old Trafford with a draw. The second leg will likely entice United to be more attacking at home which should open up the game and make for an exciting finale. Sevilla will have to be more clinical if they want to have a chance of advancing.

3) Bayern dismantle Besiktas

The German champions put on a dominant display as they ruthlessly dismantled a 10-man Besiktas side in Munich. Besiktas started strong but were in for a long night after Domagoj Vida’s 16th minute red card. The visitors stood firm for most of the first half, but Thomas Muller found a way through just before half-time opening up the floodgates as Bayern cruised to a 5-0 victory at the Allianz Arena. Muller and Lewandowski both bagged braces for Bayern.

The reverse fixture is all but a formality now. Bayern have now won 14 games in a row in all competitions and they’ve won 20 of their last 21 Champions League home games.

Second Leg Fixtures:

March 6

PSG v. Real Madrid (aggregate 1-3)

Liverpool v. Porto (agg. 5-0)


March 7

Tottenham v. Juventus (agg. 2-2)

Manchester City v. Basel (agg. 5-0)


March 13

Roma v. Shakhtar Donetsk (agg. 1-2)

Manchester United v. Sevilla (agg. 0-0)


March 14

Besiktas v. Bayern Munich (agg. 0-5)

Barcelona v. Chelsea (agg. 1-1)


Author: Mike Daly

10 Most Anticipated Matches in Europe - Weekend Preview by the Numbers

After a dramatic FA Cup round, the Premier League returns to action with one of the most iconic fixtures in English football: Manchester United vs Chelsea. Serie A has a massive match-up to look forward to as Roma host A.C. Milan on Sunday. La Liga fans will enjoy a notable encounter between Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, also on Sunday.  In Ligue 1, Marseille will take on PSG in what could prove to be a big test for the team at the top of the table

Below, we break down the most anticipated match-ups in Europe this weekend, by the all-important numbers.  Commence countdown:


Serie A leaders, Napoli, hope to round out a ten-match winning run in domestic competition with an away game against Cagliari—and that’s without a number 10 on their roster. The last time Napoli failed to collect three points? December 10th, 2017 at home against Fiorentina (0-0). As it’s been in recent weeks, Napoli is above Juventus by one point, meaning that a loss would likely see them drop to second.   


Talking about Juventus, they’re on a nine-game winning run in the Serie A. Their next opponent is Atalanta. Last time Atalanta defeated The Old Lady (Nov. 19th, 2004), #9 Gonzalo Higuain wasn’t even a professional yet.


Over in Spain, promoted side Girona will face La Liga favorites Barcelona. Girona is not having a bad first season in the top flight. The club is in 8th place with eight wins to its name.  The only Barca player to ever score against Girona is Luis Suarez.


Still in Spain, Real Madrid’s seven-match unbeaten streak is on the line against Alaves. “CR7” will look to score his seventh goal of the month.


Manchester United will host Chelsea on Sunday at Old Trafford. United hasn’t lost at home in six outings. Chelsea has only downed The Red Devils at Old Trafford once in the last six seasons. 


In the other PL Sunday fixture, 5th placed Tottenham will take on 15th placed Crystal Palace. The Eagles hope to avoid a five-game winless run. There’s hope! The Spurs drew their latest FA Cup tie 2-2 to the 23rd placed team in Football League One, Rochdale A.F.C. (Rochdale has only won five matches in the third tier of English football this season)(#That'sSoSpursy).


Spanish giants Sevilla and Atletico Madrid will clash on Sunday. Both clubs are in great form. Sevilla played United to a draw in the Champions League (0-0) to go four games without losing, while only conceding two goals. Atletico on the other hand carries a four-match winning streak in La Liga. Keep an eye on Sevilla midfielder Pablo Sarabia, he’s looking for his fourth goal of the month.


German juggernaut Bayern Munich faces Hertha Berlin this weekend. A win for Bayern will complete a three-month winning run in all competitions. Bayern’s last draw came against Hertha Berlin, and a tie would be Hertha’s third consecutive draw with Munich. Hertha Berlin currently sits in 11th in the Bundesliga with 30 goals for, 30 goals against, and 30 total points.


Back in Italy, Roma host A.C. Milan at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday at 2:45 p.m. Milan hasn’t defeated Roma in two years. Gennaro Gattuso’s men earned two red cards in their last two games against Roma. The Giallorossi lost their last encounter to Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1. Milan, on the flip side, hasn’t been beaten in two months.


In another battle of the Premier League big six, Manchester City and Arsenal will face each other on Thursday March 1st. Both sides lost their most recent game. City shockingly fell to Wigan Athletic 1-0 in the FA Cup, while the Gunners lost to Ostersund 2-1 in the Europa League.


Author: Onz Chery

Fantasy Five - Tips for your Fantasy Premier League team 2/22/18

The five English teams in the Champions League will be buoyed by the fact that all of them still have a reasonable chance of reaching the quarter finals of Europe’s elite tournament, but now it’s back to Premier League business for most, with Man United facing Chelsea, two key relegation clashes, and a game next Thursday between Man City and Arsenal, who first play each other in the EFL Cup final on Sunday. With all this going on, you need some help for your Fantasy Premier League team – so it’s a good job our friends at Armchair Fancast – the weekly podcast discussing all the latest happenings from the Premier League – are here to help with their five player picks for the week! Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here, and follow them on Twitter here!

  1. Nick Pope (BUR, £4.9): Burnley may still be in 7th by virtue of their excellent first half to the season, but they haven’t won in the league in 2018 and have now conceded more goals at home than they have scored at home this season. Pope managed 8 clean sheets before Christmas, but only 1 since the start of this year. So why pick him? Obviously it’s a risk, but with Tom Heaton’s return from injury imminent, Pope has incentive to prove he deserves to keep his spot between the posts, and home matches against Southampton and Everton are as good a chance as any to make his point.   
  2. Virgil van Dijk (LIV, £5.5): Liverpool’s defensive reputation is one of the weaker among the league’s “big” teams – which is partly why Van Dijk was brought in during the January transfer window – but things have been better recently, with two clean sheets in the last three league games and a thoroughly impressive shut-out in Porto during last week’s Champions League game during which VVD looked impressive. West Ham got smashed 4-1 by Klopp’s side earlier in the season, and despite the improvements under David Moyes there is reason to believe it could be another big day in the rematch at Anfield on Saturday.
  3. Christian Eriksen (TOT, £9.2): On the podcast we said last month that Tottenham’s tough run of games in February would make or break their season – fortunately for Spurs fans it seems to have done the former, and Eriksen is a major reason for that. With goals against Man United in the Premier League and Juventus in the Champions League, he seems to be back to the kind of form that made him the best player in his team for the first 8 games of the season – and this week he has the chance to take apart a Crystal Palace side that is out of form and ravaged by injuries.
  4. Jose Izquierdo (BHA, £5.9): Swansea might be enjoying a renaissance at present, but they face a tricky away trip to an increasingly impressive Brighton on Saturday. Izquierdo has epitomised the Seagulls’ increased attacking menace since cementing his place in the starting line-up over the past three gameweeks – Brighton are in the top five teams in the league for number of shots during that time, and Izquierdo has scored in each of the last two matches. He might also benefit from his position on the left wing, which has been a weak spot for the Swansea defence all season.
  5.  Steve Mounie (HUD, £5.7): Steve Mounie’s ineffectiveness for the past ten league games had coincided with that of his team, who were in freefall before they crushed Bournemouth 4-1 a fortnight ago. Everyone (including us) was surprised by the brilliance of that Huddersfield performance, and in particular the imperious Mounie who not only bagged his 5th goal of the season, but earned his first pair of assists too. This week his team visits crisis-hit West Brom, the first of six games in the next seven that look ripe for the Terriers to prove they can fight their way out of trouble.

Author: Dave Bradshaw

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Champions League - Round of 16, Week 2

The Champions are back! And week 2 of the Champions League Round of 16 is almost more enticing than week 1, with historic implications on the table for the clubs representing England, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine and Italy. Week 1 was highlighted by the clashes of titans, seventeen goals in four matches, and star players shining (or crumbling) on the big stage. Below are the top stories ahead of the Round of 16 matchups this week.

Chelsea v. Barcelona – Must-watch match of the week

The marquee matchup of the week sees Chelsea host Barcelona at Stamford Bridge for their first competitive tie since the Champions League semi-final in April 2012. Chelsea bested Barça on that occasion – 3-2 on aggregate thanks to a 92nd-minute Fernando Torres goal – on their way to earning their first and only Champions League title. However, few will forget Iniesta’s dramatic 93rd-minute goal at Stamford Bridge that sent Barcelona through to the 2009 UCL finals and broke thousands of hearts in West London. Barça went on to beat Manchester United in the final.

Cesc Fabregas and Pedro could feature against their former club. Philippe Coutinho is ineligible to play in Champions League following his move from Liverpool.

"We start this game as underdogs...We must be prepared to suffer without the ball, to be compact, not to lose our heads during the game. Then with the ball we try what we know, what we've tried during training."    

- Antonio Conte on being prepared for suffering against Barcelona

Chelsea have struggled of late – losing two games to bottom-of-the-table clubs in the Premier League, while Barca enter the first leg undefeated in both La Liga and Champions League.

Surprisingly, Lionel Messi has not scored against Chelsea in eight previous meetings. Antonio Conte will look to continue that trend and will rely on Eden Hazard to spark the English champion’s hopes of an upset.  

Bayern Munich v. Besiktas – History for Besiktas and a big test for Bayern 

Bayern Munich finished second in Group B behind PSG and therefore are the hosts for leg one against Besiktas, who finished top of their group. Bayern will plan on grabbing a decisive early advantage in the first leg at the Allianz Arena, which has been a fortress for the German champs having won 19 of their previous 20 Champions League games at home.

"Bayern have a big squad with many top players – they could field two teams!"    

-Besiktas Manager, Senol Gunes, on the depth and quality of the opposition

Bayern have reached the Champions League semifinals in six of the last eight seasons. Meanwhile, Besiktas will play in the Round of 16 for the first time in the club’s history. The Black Eagles surprised many by finishing first in a group featuring Monaco, Porto and RB Leipzig.

Keep in mind that the Besiktas defense is anchored by Pepe, who has claimed three Champions League titles (2014, ’16, ’17) in addition to winning the European Championship with Portugal in 2016. Combine that with the likes of Ricardo Quaresma, Talisca, Alvaro Negredo, and more (Cyle Larin!). This team should be taken very seriously. 

The Turkish Giants will test Bayern Munich in a big way, and while this match is overshadowed by Barca/Chelsea, we recommend finding a second screen so that you don’t have to miss out on this one.

Upset Alert!

Shakhtar Donetsk v. Roma -- Sevilla v. Manchester Utd.  

Shakhtar Donetsk will try to repeat the success they had in the 2010/11 campaign by advancing to the quarterfinals at Roma’s expense. The Ukrainian champions knocked Roma out at this stage in 2011, and they look prepared to do the same in 2018.


"Maybe we could kill him or knock him down or something..." 

-Sevilla Manager, Vincenzo Montella, on how to contain Alexis Sanchez


Roma has advanced to the knockout stages for the sixth time in their last seven appearances in the competition. But their record at this stage will not lift Roma supporter’s hopes; they’ve lost seven of their last eight Champions league knockout games.

Sevilla host Manchester United in the first competitive meeting between the two clubs. Sevilla currently sits 5th in La Liga, six points behind Real Madrid.

Jose Mourinho led Manchester United to a Europa League title last season and he would love to become the first manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs (Porto '04, Inter '10). United put on an impressive display in the group stages and they will be lifted by the addition of Alexis. But the Red Devils have struggled against Spanish teams, scoring just seven goals in their last 14 Champions League matches against Spanish opposition.

[Cue: UEFA Champions League Anthem]

Author: Mike Daly

Class of 2022 - The Top 5 Recruiting Classes in NCAA Men's DI Soccer...so far

Now that National Signing Day has come and gone, National Letters of Intent have been submitted and a slew of commitments have been solidified.

The arms race for talent in men's college soccer never comes to a full stop, and there is still a long way to go between now and the start of preseason in August, but many schools have already started to announce their full recruiting classes.

Despite the risk of NLI signees still slipping away to professional contracts (see: Zachary Herivaux in 2015, a Providence commit who signed on with the New England Revolution) and shaking up the landscape even further, here's a breakdown of the Top 5 men's Division I recruiting classes at this point in the cycle:

1. Wake Forest

After losing a strong core of seniors to graduation and a few key contributors to professional soccer, the Demon Deacons boast a deep and versatile group of incoming freshman. Look for Isaiah Parente (Crew SC Academy) and Koby Carr (Houston Dynamo) to make an instant impact in the starting line-up. If Wake Forest can add another attacker and a goalkeeper or two to their class within the next few weeks, they should be set to make another run at a College Cup in 2018.

  • Commitments:

    • Isaiah Parente (Crew SC Academy | Midfielder)

    • Kyle Holcomb (Pateadores | Forward)

    • Koby Carr (Houston Dynamo | Defender)

    • Aristotle Zarris (LA Galavy Academy | Midfielder)

    • John Rula (FC Dallas | Defender)

    • Jake Swollen (Minnesota Thunder Academy | Midfielder)

    • Elijah Kerr (Dix Hills SC | Defender)

2. UCLA*

With their full 2018 recruiting class officially announced, UCLA is poised to rebound from what was a disappointing 2017 campaign -- especially by their incredibly high standards as a traditional powerhouse program. The Bruins are bringing in five players ranked within the top 20 of most major recruiting databases, although there is a risk that many of these could be swayed to sign professional deals (including Developmental Academy standouts Justin Garces and Matthew Hundley). Given that, the guaranteed addition of junior college transfer Mohammed Kamara, who scored 70 goals in two seasons at Tyler Junior College, ensures that UCLA will be adding some serious offensive firepower at the very least.

  • Commitments:

    • Franuel Amaya (Paseadores | Midfielder)

    • Justin Garces (Atlanta United | Goalkeeper)

    • Matthew Hundley (Colorado Rapids | Midfielder)

    • Arturo Vasquez (FC Golden State | Defender)

    • Cody Sundquist (Placer United | Midfielder)

    • Alejandro Mendez (IMG Academy | Midfielder)

    • Mohammed Kamara (Tyler Junior College | Forward)

3. Clemson*

With key signees in defender Carlos Asensio and forward Grayson Barber set to make an immediate impact in the ACC for the Tigers, Clemson should build upon a successful 2017 season and stay competitive in one of the top conferences in the country. While they typically rely on international talent to supplement their recruiting efforts, it seems that head coach Mike Noonan is making a big bet on a group of USDA-groomed players.

  • Commitments:

    • Carlos Asensio (Atlanta United | Defender)

    • Grayson Barber (Sporting KC | Forward)

    • George Marks (North Carolina FC Youth | Goalkeeper)

    • James Brighton (Atlanta United | Forward)

    • John Martin (Caroline Elite Soccer Academy | Midfielder)

    • Chris Matlashewski (South Carolina United FC | Forward)

    • Mason Visconti (Sporting KC | Forward)

4. Portland*

Although the University of Portland is not usually discussed as a top-tier team in Division I college soccer, the Pilots made a surprising splash on National Signing Day -- landing a group of talented Development Academy products that include LA Galaxy Academy midfielder Jake Arteaga and Orlando City Academy forward Alejandro Pereira. Transfers Francesco Tiozzo (Winthrop) and Brian O'Hara (California) should also be able to step in immediately and bolster a roster that is already deep at every position.

  • Commitments:

    • Jake Arteaga (LA Galaxy | Midfielder)

    • Alejandro Pereira (Orlando City | Forward)

    • Gregory Tracey (Colorado Rapids | Midfielder)

    • Kelee Cornfield-Saunders (LA Galaxy | Defender)

    • Tristan Weber (San Clemente HS | Forward)

    • Georges El-Khoury (Seacoast United | Goalkeeper)

    • RJ Stretch (Seattle Sounders | Midfielder)

    • Francesco Tiozzo (Wintrop | Defender)

    • Brian O'Hara (University of California | Defender)

5. Akron*

After an eighteen-win season that ended at the hands of the eventual national champions in the NCAA College Cup Semifinals, Akron has reloaded with a massive recruiting class. Both midfielder Colin Biros and defender Carlo Ritaccio should feature in the starting lineup, and international signees Marco Milanese, Daniel Oliviera, Diogo Pacheco and Cristian Gennaro have the potential to fill the void left by an immensely talented senior class.

  • Commitments:

    • Colin Biros (Crew SC Academy | Midfielder)

    • Carlo Ritaccio (BW Gottschee | Defender)

    • Nick McCausland (Internationals SC | Defender)

    • Marco Milanese (Napoli SC | Defender)

    • Ivan Nokolic (Sigma FC | Forward)

    • Daniel Oliviera (Belenenses | Defender)

    • Diogo Pacheco (Belenenses | Midfielder)

    • Sammy Tojaga (Real Salt Lake | Midfielder)

    • Cristian Gennaro (Orizzonti United | Midfielder)

    • Dion Akhigbe (Challenger | Midfielder)

    • Dennis Cole (Sacramento State | Midfielder)

    • Leonard Sohn (Manhattan | Defender)

    • Kotaro Used (Louisville | Midfielder)

* denotes the official class announcement has been released

As professional contracts are signed and more recruiting classes are published, we will continue to monitor, analyze and update this list, culminating with our final Top 10 recruiting class rankings this summer. Stay tuned!


Author: Nick Woolf

Champions League Round of 16; Week 1 Recap

Half of the Round of 16 first leg fixtures are in the books following Wednesday’s games in Madrid and Porto. All four matches were filled with plenty of goals and drama from Europe’s elite clubs (17 goals in four matches). While Man City and Liverpool have one foot in the quarterfinals after comprehensive victories, Spurs/Juventus and PSG/Madrid have everything to play for in the reverse fixtures on March 6/7. If you missed the matches, not to worry, DSD Champions League specialist Mike Daly recounts the events as they happened and looks forward to the Leg 2 rematches.

Real Madrid's bench makes the difference in crucial victory over PSG

PSG started off on the front foot, scoring a pivotal away goal as Adrien Rabiot converted from close range after a clever flick from Neymar. But, despite Real’s struggles this season, the 12-time European Cup champions found ways to unlock the PSG defense, led by their talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s two goals weren’t the flashiest – a converted penalty and a fortuitous knee-touch off of a deflection – but nobody can deny his ability to be at the right place at the right time in the big games. Ronaldo now has 11 goals in 7 Champions League matches this season, and a remarkable 101 goals in the competition for Real Madrid (116 total including the 15 he scored for Manchester United).

For all of the hype around PSG, they fell short on the big stage and questions will be asked of PSG manager, Unai Emery. Emery surprisingly dropped club captain, Thiago Silva, from the starting lineup. The makeshift back four conceded a penalty and two late goals. A pair of domestic titles is the minimum requirement for a team full of talent, especially after the club’s spending spree in the summer. A Round of 16 exit from the Champions League would be a massive disappointment, especially against a Real Madrid side that currently sits in fourth in La Liga. While Neymar was instrumental in Barcelona’s thrilling comeback against PSG in the Champions League last year, the Brazilian struggled to combine with Cavani and Mbappe as the typically dangerous attacking trio could not find the back of the net.

Zinedine Zidane's tactical genius proved to be the difference. Substitutes Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio brought energy and attacking prowess to a match that otherwise could have ended in PSG's favor. It was Asensio who set up two goals to break the 1-1 deadlock and give his team the advantage heading into the second leg in Paris. PSG’s subs, Thomas Meuiner and Julian Draxler, did not have a similar impact and Angel Di Maria will be wondering why he was left on the bench against his former club. However, with an away goal in their pocket, a 2-0 result in Paris would still see PSG through to the quarterfinals.

Tottenham rains on Juve's early parade

Juventus started the match in dreamland. Gonzalo Higuain scored a golazo and converted a penalty inside the first 10 minutes in what looked set to be a long night for Spurs. However, Tottenham battled back and halved the deficit in the 35th minute as Harry Kane rounded Gigi Buffon to convert Dele Alli’s pinpoint through ball. Juventus failed to restore their two-goal lead just before half as Higuain rattled the crossbar on his second penalty attempt of the night. After the interval, Tottenham pressed on and were rewarded in the 71st minute with a brilliant free kick driven low to the goalkeeper's side by Christian Eriksen – Spurs first goal from a set piece in the Champions League this season.

Despite Tottenham’s nightmare start, they managed to turn the game on its head and controlled the majority of the final 80 minutes. Juventus had come into the game only allowing a single goal in their last 16 matches in all competitions. Juve’s dominant defense combined with their remarkable home record makes Spurs comeback even more impressive. Gigi Buffon will be disappointed with both goals he conceded, as he wasn’t at his sharpest on the night. And despite a brace, Higuain will also be frustrated he didn’t put the tie out of sight in the first half.

Juve boss, Massimiliano Allegri, dismissed critics that stated Juventus were favorites to advance ahead of the match in Turin. After his team squandered a two-goal lead, Allegri stated, “we go to London tied and we play a final, and probably they will be under more pressure than us.” The pressure may indeed be on Tottenham, but they will be confident after a resilient display and the advantage of two crucial away goals. Juventus could be boosted by the return of their star, Paulo Dybala, who missed out on the first leg through injury. My prediction: 90 minutes may not be enough to decide a winner at Wembley.  

Manchester City and Liverpool cruise

Manchester City continued their strong European campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of Basel in Switzerland. City’s strength in depth shone through as Ilkay Gundogan bagged a brace while Bernardo Silva also found the back of the net. Three goals from a couple of players who have struggled to find minutes this season prove City has plenty of weapons. Sergio Aguero continued his good run of form, blasting a 22-yard shot into the bottom left corner, while the frozen Basel goalkeeper simply watched.

Similar to City, Liverpool outclassed Porto in a commanding 5-0 victory. Despite losing their playmaker, Philippe Coutinho, to Barcelona in the January transfer window, Liverpool still boasts an attacking force that is one of the most intimidating in Europe. Their front three comprised of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were all on the score sheet. Jurgen Klopp will be delighted to have seen Mane back to his best, netting a hat trick. James Milner has quietly tallied 7 assists in the Champions League, three more than any other player (De Bruyne, Neymar and Firmino each have 4 assists, tied for second).  Salah continued his brilliant season with another special goal that displayed his composure as he calmly juggled the ball over the Porto goalkeeper and placed it in the back of the goal. He now has 30 goals this season in all competitions. 

Man City and Liverpool made it looks easy in their first leg ties and can afford to make several changes to their starting XI, taking comfortable leads into their second leg home fixtures.


Author: Mike Daly


U.S. Soccer Launches New Player Development Program

This past Wednesday, the United States Soccer Federation -- in conjunction with six NCAA men's soccer programs -- announced the launching of a new player development initiative: the Spring College Program.

The goal of this collaborative program (between U.S Soccer and these select colleges) is to provide both further player development opportunities for Division I student-athletes as well as additional opportunities for U.S. Soccer scouts to identify potential U.S. Olympic and national team players. Often criticized for a lack of breadth in its scouting efforts, it seems that the USSF is seeking to introduce more innovative ways to expand the player pool. 

Starting next month, the six programs -- a group that consists of traditional powerhouses Duke, Clemson, Georgetown, Virginia, Wake Forest, and North Carolina -- will each host two games before the program culminates with a round-robin tournament hosted at Wake Forest University on April 21. The team with the most points after the three-match event will be crowned champion. Even more importantly, all games will be played under international standards, similar to how the U.S. Soccer Development Academy functions in its implementation of international standards; games will be played with a traditional running clock, a game-day roster of 18 players, and no substitute re-entry. 

This announcement came a few days before Carlos Cordeiro was elected as President of the United States Soccer Federation and may serve as a precursor for more changes to come within the landscape of college soccer. Proponents of the new Spring College Program believe that it has the potential to help better connect college soccer to the national team player development pathway, providing scouts with an additional series of opportunities to identify more players. 

“We are excited about this program and the role it will play in helping college soccer become more connected to the player development pathway. It provides us with additional opportunities to identify more players for Youth National Teams and for the Olympic Team in an environment that mirrors the international game.”  -Tab Ramos, U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director and U-20 Men's National Team head coach

2018 U.S. Soccer Spring College Program Game Schedule



"College soccer serves an important role in the development of soccer players in the United States and I am looking forward to the integration of meaningful FIFA standards into the college game."

-George Gelnovatch (Head Coach, University of Virginia


“We believe this is a positive step to build a closer connection with U.S. Soccer and the college game. A cooperative relationship is exciting and can only help to develop and improve our beautiful game."    

-Carlos Somoano  (Head Coach, University of North Carolina)

  • March 4
    • North Carolina v. Clemson
  • March 17
    • Virginia v. Georgetown
    • Clemson v. Wake Forest
  • March 24
    • Georgetown v. North Carolina
    • Duke v. West Virginia
  • March 29
    • Wake Forest v. Duke
  • April 7
    • North Carolina v. Virginia
    • Clemson v. Duke
  • April 8
    • Georgetown v. Wake Forest
  • April 14
    • Duke v. Georgetown
    • Virginia v. Clemson
    • Wake Forest v. North Carolina
  • April 21 (Event Hosted at Wake Forest)
    • Duke v. North Carolina
    • Georgetown v. Clemson
    • Wake Forest v. Virginia

Bold = Home Team

U.S. Soccer is accepting applications from Colleges and Universities for participation in the 2019 Spring Program. While the program lacks competitive incentive for the schools involved, other than bragging rights, college players will be fully invested in the opportunity to display their talent. Stay tuned for more as the Daily Soccer Digest follows these matches.


Author: Nick Woolf

Champions League Round of 16 Preview

The UEFA Champions League is back after a two-month hiatus with four games taking place this week. Below are the top stories ahead of the Round of 16 clashes on Tuesday and Wednesday: 

Madrid vs. PSG - The must watch match of the week

These are the nights that every soccer fan dreams of – a weeknight clash between two European giants showcasing two of the best players in the world. While some might have hoped this tie was played in a round closer to the finals, this highly anticipated matchup is one that will certainly entertain. 

Paris Saint-Germain has dominated Ligue 1 this season, currently sitting top of the league by 12 points. Although Neymar has been making light work of his domestic opponents, scoring 19 goals and providing 11 assists in the league, he may find it more difficult to break down the likes of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane at the heart of Madrid’s defense. But PSG has plenty of goal threats including Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe. This year's high-scoring squad set a UEFA Champions League record this season by scoring 25 goals in the group stage.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid has had a season to forget domestically, finding themselves battling for a top 4 finish rather than a title race with Barcelona. Their poor form has sparked rumors that Zinedine Zidane’s time may be running out if results don’t improve, despite leading his squad to back-to-back Champions League titles. Madrid will be boosted by a 5-2 win at the weekend including a hat trick for Cristiano Ronaldo. Los Blancos will be hoping to secure 3 points at the Bernabeu ahead of the second leg in Paris. 

Is this the year an English team wins the title?

To many pundits surprise, all 5 English teams remain in the competition – Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham. It marks the first time that any nation has had five teams in the knockout round before. 

Man City, Liverpool and Spurs will be in action this week and have been in good form of late. With a comfortable 16-point lead in the Premier League, Man City is certainly one of the favorites to lift the UCL trophy in May. And Pep Guardiola has a pedigree of success in the competition, winning the Champions League twice with Barcelona, in 2009 and 2011.  

Tottenham and Chelsea face tough opponents in Juventus and Barcelona respectively. But Spurs will feel confident after a 2-0 preseason victory against the Italian giants. Chelsea has not only experienced past success against Barcelona in the Champions League, but they are, however, the last English team to win the UCL title, in 2012.  

Man United and Liverpool have "easier" matchups on paper against Sevilla and Porto respectively, and will be hoping to advance to the quarterfinals as they continue on their search for silverware. 

A rematch and a couple of first competitive matchups

Tuesday’s games will be the first competitive meetings for the clubs involved, as Manchester City is set to face FC Basel in Switzerland while Juventus host Spurs. 

Basel is unbeaten in their only two games at home in the knockout stages in the competition but has never advanced past the round of 16. Man City has been one of the most exciting and dominant teams in Europe this season and will be looking to keep their hopes of a winning a quadruple alive.

Tottenham finished unbeaten and top of their group ahead of current holders Real Madrid. Their group stage performance and recent form should give them plenty of confidence going into Turin. Juventus are looking to improve on their runner-up finish last term. The Old Lady eliminated Barcelona at this stage last season. And they are nearly unbeatable at home in the competition, with their last defeat coming against Bayern Munich in 2013. 

Liverpool is unbeaten against Porto in their history, winning and drawing twice. But both draws have come in Portugal and Porto would be pleased with another tie in leg one against a dangerous Liverpool attack.  

Tactical battles and the advantage of group winners

The first round of a two-leg tie can be a cagey battle with the away team seemingly content to take a scoreless draw into the deciding second leg; and the home side not wanting to concede a goal which could prove particularly costly given the away goal rule. 

But that notion will likely be lost on Man City, Liverpool and Spurs. Not only does a more cautious approach not suit their style of play, but all three teams boast prolific goal scorers in Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane. While the marquee matchup is Madrid vs. PSG, the other three games should offer attractive soccer and goals. 

Group winners have progressed in 72.3% of round of 16 ties since the current competition format was introduced in 1992. This bodes well for group winners Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and PSG heading into their respective leg one away matches. 

Author: Michael Daly