College soccer begins its season with an offense-loaded PAC_12; Huskies on the rise

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He’s a big strong junior forward with international pedigree, and he’s a tremendous threat to the PAC-12.

Presumably, you’d think you’re reading about Jordan Morris, the much-publicized Stanford man with a USMNT goal under his belt and as many accolades as you can dig up for a kid in college.

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

But Morris isn’t the subject of that opening statement. Allow us to introduce you to a 6-foot-2 junior forward from the University of Washington named Mason Robertson. The son of a Scottish defending hero and the author of 13 goals through two years in Seattle, Robertson has all the tools you want from a striker.

The presence of Robertson and Morris in the same conference — let alone Oregon State’s Timmy Mueller, who outscored both last season — shows the depth of a brutal six-team conference.

In fact, talk to any coach in the PAC-12 and they’ll be able to rattle off a bevy of respected in-conference stars. Washington coach Jamie Clark literally reeled off compliments for multiple players from each team across the conference, which includes UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and San Diego State.

“The difference in our conference is that there’s really no bottom,” Clark said when asked what makes the PAC-12 so brutal. “San Diego State still goes into conference play 7-2, and then they have to play our conference. Every kid who’s playing here doesn’t get a single break come October 1.”

[ WATCH: Evansville’s McGrath nets preseason stunner ]

There are over 200 teams in Division I men’s soccer, and PAC-12 has three teams in the Top 10 of the NSCAA preseason poll with UCLA (1), Stanford (8) and Washington (10). Cal also places in the Top 25 at No. 16, while Oregon State receives votes. SDSU beat two ranked teams outside of conference play last season.

Stanford and UCLA will be pegged to finish high this year, but Washington has an opportunity to chase the title thanks in no small part to Robertson and a wide array of talent.


“Arguably we have the best center forward in the country in Mason,” Clark said. “He’s out with injury right now but when he’s healthy he’s a freak. His dad, David Robertson, played for Leeds and Rangers and was a pretty special pro.

“And Henry Wingo, the Sounders product, he’s a name people will become very familiar with. Special talent who just glides with the ball. He’s like a Jordan Allen maybe. Not quite as direct, but smoother.”

[ MORE: SportsWorld on Notre Dame’s Bobby Clark ]

Helping in the attack are U-23 camp invitee James Moberg and crafty winger Josh Heard, while strong senior center back Michael Gallagher will be joined by U.S. U-18 back Quentin Pearson.

All that said, the Huskies will have to track down UCLA and Stanford while holding off Cal, Oregon State and San Diego State. The Bruins have brought in an unreal amount of talent to help replace Leo Stolz, while the Cardinal will boast Brandon Vincent in addition to Morris.

Clark says Cal plays “the most attractive soccer in the conference”, and powerful midfielder Christian Theirjung headlines a unit with Jose Carrera Garcia and Paul Salcedo. The Golden Bears are also playing for fallen teammate Eloi Vasquez, who died tragically this winter.

While we had Clark on the line, we put the veteran coach on the spot for the under-the-radar players from the West Coast, and a list of the top talent he’s faced in college. The former San Jose Earthquakes defender — and son of Notre Dame boss Bobby Clark — was an assistant at New Mexico and Notre Dame before head coaching stints at Harvard and Creighton.

Jamie Clark’s best PAC-12 players of recent years
Ryan Hollingshead
Kelyn Rowe
Steve Birnbaum
Khiry Shelton
Andy Rose
Adam Jahn

Jamie Clark’s best non-PAC-12 West coast players now
Eddie Sanchez – Portland
Ismaila Jome – UC Santa Barbara
Chris Weehan – New Mexico

Jamie Clark’s best overall players in recent years
Ethan Finlay- Powerful and never quits. A terror to have to defend.
Darlington Nagbe – Couldn’t get the ball from him. MLS teams have the same issue today.
Gyasi Zardes – Unreal scary running at you.
Darren Mattocks- Scared defenses as just so athletic.
Leo Stolz- Did everything for UCLA
Harry Shipp- Absolute class in finding pockets and playing through pressure.
Will Bruin- Terrorized our Creighton team a few years back.
Andre Blake – He is a special keeper.
Miguel Gonzales – Peninsula JC then Seattle U. Scored goals everywhere he’s been. Crafty and smart. Never given a chance by many, being from a smaller school and not a big strapping athlete. Now tearing up the USL.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.

Lampard, Azpilicueta back Barkley after penalty drama

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Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta claims that Willian was encouraging Ross Barkley in the run-up to the latter’s ill-fated penalty attempt in a 1-0 loss to Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

“Ross  is one of the best penalty takers in the team and one who takes them. He had the confidence and he was unlucky hitting the bar. They were encouraging him to have the confidence to score. There was high expectation. They were trying to get him into the best condition. Hopefully next time it goes in.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things ]

That is genuinely amusing from cheeky and likable “Dave.” Let’s take a look at the encouragement, shall we?

Barkley is literally, repeatedly motioning and even saying, “Nah, I got this. I’ll be fine.”

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Barkley was the penalty taker for the game, and doesn’t see the drama in it.

“Ross is a penalty taker and is when he starts games. He took it and missed it. It is a great story to say there is contention between players. If he scores it is not a story. But he took it and missed. That is it. The disappointment to all of us is that we didn’t get chance to win the game. There is no issue in the dressing room.”

Chelsea was the superior team over 90 minutes, but that can mean so little in a tournament where winning at home can be vital to the chances of advancement.