Getty Images

New York City’s Jack Harrison on meteoric rise: “It can only get better”

1 Comment

(By Jack Harrison, speaking to Joe Prince-Wright)

BACK TO THE START

When I think back to the start of my journey to the USA, it was all my mom, really. I didn’t really have anything to do with it until later on. She was looking for me to go elsewhere when I was around 11 or 12 and in the academy at Manchester United, just because she wanted me to have a better education and something to fall back on if soccer didn’t work out. She spoke to a couple of people and did her own research and it was recommended to her that I come over my freshman year of high school. That was at the age of 14. When I was around 13 she introduced this idea to me.

I was really apprehensive at first. All of the little kids in the academies in England, they all think the same way. They all want to make the first team and that’s it. It is the only thing they’ve got in their brain. She helped me to have an open mind and she said to me ‘go there and visit and if you like it you can stay out there and if you don’t, you can just come back and we can figure something out.’

We didn’t have enough money for us both to travel out to America at the same time. Once I visited Berkshire School, it was amazing. One of the best experiences that I’ve had, the fact that you can go to school, get a good education and play soccer every day. The facilities there, the community there, everything was just so welcoming. It was just so nice.

In truth, I never doubted my decision to come to the USA. The support system I had at Berkshire was amazing. I am a very independent person so I’ve always kind of been by myself. I like living away from home. That wasn’t a big thing for me. I’ve grown up an only child so to be in a dorm was just like a dream come true really.

I had a lot of fun and I could talk to my friends if I had any problems or anything like that. My coach, Jon Moodey, was the biggest support for me I guess. Just because through soccer he would do anything he could to have me out on the field. Then off the field he would help me out as much as he could as well. His family has been like my second family since I’ve been out here. The only issue was the homework at first because in England it’s not really required. You’re supposed to do it but if you don’t, it’s not going to impact much. Whereas over here, it goes towards your grade. It took me a while to manage my time and get my homework done but apart from that the lifestyle and everything was pretty easy to adjust to just because of all the support I had around me.

I have so much to thank my mom for. My mom and dad split up when I was three and ever since she has done nothing but want the best for me and do everything she can for me. Without her I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve only got her to thank really for allowing me to have this opportunity to be out here and doing the things I’m doing right now. It’s all down to her.


THE BIG LEAP ACROSS THE POND

When I think about the future, I’m not sure what lies ahead. That’s exciting. I’m only 19 and I’m in the last stages of my green card process right now. I’m not sure what steps are in order to get citizenship but I think that’s something further down the line. That will potentially take a while anyway and right now I am just focusing on being here and doing whatever I can to help this club.

Looking back on my journey to this point, speaking to anyone in England I’d recommend the route I took to come to the USA at a young age. I know it’s hard to be away from home at such a young age but if you look at the benefits and the outcome of most people who come out here, it’s all been pretty successful. It’s been worth it with the connections you make and I’m just surprised that more people don’t do it to be honest because it is an opportunity you can’t really pass on.

A lot of English kids don’t know the opportunity is out there to do this. When I was first announcing I was leaving to play soccer in the States, everyone was like ‘oh. Why are you going over there to play soccer?’ It is actually much better than what I expected and I don’t think that people in England realize that the standard here is definitely growing now and developing. It is a lot better than what people think and it can only get better from here on out with the players they are bringing in and the youth players developing with the academies now as well. It is only going to keep growing and I think a lot of people in England need to realize that.

Despite what some people may say, college is a good environment to be in for young players. From the high school I was in at Berkshire, it prepared me pretty well in terms of the types of routines you get in for the day but the standard is definitely getting better in college. There is a lot of good development that goes on. I think it is completely different to what it’s like in Europe. Obviously you have the educational piece which is a part of it and I think that’s a massive difference. It is kind of hard to compare the systems in Europe and the USA because the schooling, although some people might not think it, it takes a lot away from the professional side of being a football player.

Like I say, it’s tough to compare. Where I was at, Wake Forest, they did the best they could to create this professional environment. It was good that way but it will never be as good as it could be because of the school side, which is also important. I’m not saying we should get rid of it because it is two massive parts. There’s just a difference between here and Europe. Adding the educational part on too is tough.


GOING PRO

The start to my rookie season was hardly ideal… The injury I suffered was a massive setback. It was a new experience for me. I was just glad to have the support around me. The trainers, Patrick Vieira and then doing rehab with Frank [Lampard] was an experience I will never forget. All the guys have just been great with me so far. That’s really showing in the way we are playing now as a team. We are obviously doing well, at the top of the league and stuff. Patrick has got some great ideas and everyone is believing in him. You can see that in the way we are playing.

Patrick is very demanding. At the same time he can relate to you and makes you feel comfortable. He asks a lot from you and he is never satisfied with what we are doing. There is always something we can do better and I think that’s a good thing because that’s how you improve and develop as a team. That’s the reason why we are playing the way we are today because of him and his attitude towards the team. He is a lot of fun to be around. He makes it enjoyable to come in every day. He’s been a great coach so far.

On the field the likes of Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo have just been amazing, offering their experiences to the group and to myself. People of my age and even those that are older, all we can do is listen and try and take on board what they are saying and try and perform that. That’s been the best part really. These guys, they don’t think they are better than anybody else. That’s a nice part about them because it makes you feel more comfortable around them and when you play with them. They definitely add a lot to this team.

When they talk you listen and being around them, you get the whole package. They give you lots of advice about the little things on the field. It is easier for me to communicate with Frank, speaking the same language, but David has been a lot of help too offering his knowledge and help and Pirlo is still working on his English but he tries to help communicate what might help me in a game. I just try and do my best to take it all in and try and perform what they want doing. It has been good, they have been great on and off the field.

If you look at the players on our team, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be up there with the top teams this season. As soon as Patrick came in, what he wanted was for the club to be successful and we want to win something at the end of the year. With the way we are playing right now and the way he is coaching, it is all starting to come together. I think it can only get better from here as long as we keep humble and keep working hard.


THE FUTURE

One day it would be nice to go back and play in England and the Premier League. Obviously we will have to see what happens down the road but right now I am just trying to focus on doing what I can here. If the opportunity comes up then we can discuss that after the season but that would be a dream come true, to play in the Premier League in front of all those people and at that standard as well. I think that’s something further down the road.

Everyone asks me if I would prefer to represent the USA or England at national team level. I get that question a lot. But, the truth is there’s been no contact from either the U.S. or England. It would be nice to represent my home country and wear that badge on my shirt but at the same time, if the interest is not there, then I’m open to play for the U.S. I think that is something for down the road. It is something to think about later, but right now I just want to focus on being at New York City FC.

When I was growing up I always looked up to the likes of Ronaldinho, Zidane, Michael Owen, David Beckham, all those kinds of players. But I’ve always been a massive Liverpool fan so Steven Gerrard has been up there as well.

Ahead of our game against LA Galaxy last weekend I was like, “I might have to put in a tackle on him…!’ No, no. I’m just joking! It was an amazing experience and something not many people can say they’ve done. Obviously being alongside Frank, I was on the other side of the Liverpool-Chelsea rivalry and we managed to grind out a win! It was awesome to end up facing one of my idols in Stevie G.

Leyton Orient announce COVID-19 positives, stadium closure before Tottenham game

Leyton Orient
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leyton Orient have issued a statement after multiple first team players tested positive for COVID-19 and they’ve been forced to shut their training ground and stadium just one day before they were due to host Premier League giants Tottenham.

The fourth-tier club were due to play Tottenham in the League Cup third round on Tuesday but that game is now in severe doubt and the east London club (located 11 miles from Tottenham’s home stadium) said they will be announcing more details in due course about what will happen.

Here is the Leyton Orient statement in full about their current situation:

“Following our game on Saturday 19th September, COVID-19 testing was conducted on all of our first team playing squad. Today (Monday 21st) we received formal confirmation which shows that a number of our first-team squad have tested positive for COVID-19. We have informed the EFL and Tottenham Hotspur and will make a further announcement regarding Tuesday’s match shortly.

“We have also informed Mansfield Town, Plymouth Argyle and Oldham Athletic, our three most recent opponents, prior to the public release of this information. Leyton Orient’s priority is the health and well-being of its players and staff. Those who have tested positive will now strictly follow government self-isolation guidelines. The Breyer Group Stadium and training ground facilities will be closed until further notice. At this time, the club will make no further comment.”

The problem here is that Tottenham don’t have any other available dates to play this game.

With their Premier League and UEFA Europa League qualifying commitments, Tottenham are already stretched to the limits and this game at Leyton Orient is one of four games in seven days for Jose Mourinho’s side.

The rules also state that if a team cannot fulfil the fixture due to COVID-19 positive tests, they will have to forfeit and Tottenham will move on. Leyton Orient are a small team who Harry Kane, a former loanee, has helped raised money for and there’s a very good relationship between the two clubs. This game was also due to be broadcast on TV in the UK and would have helped Leyton Orient out financially at a time when fans still aren’t allowed into stadiums in large numbers. These positive tests have now put all of that in doubt.

Lower league teams will run into similar issues like this when it comes to the FA Cup too, as testing is less prevalent and regulated lower down the professional pyramid in England. EFL clubs are only mandated to test their players during every international break and have stopped testing players twice a week. That has led to Premier League clubs paying for their lower-league League Cup opponents to be tested before games. In this case, multiple Leyton Orient players have tested positive.

Mourinho: Bale could return from injury quicker due to desire

Leave a comment

Bale injury update: So, Tottenham fans would be hoping that a Gareth Bale injury update wouldn’t be coming soon but he is nursing a knee injury he picked up on international duty earlier this month.

Judging by their 5-2 win at Southampton on Sunday, Tottenham will be just fine in attack without the Welsh star they’ve signed on loan from Real Madrid for the 2019-20 season. There is no reason for him to rush back, especially considering his recent history with injuries.

That said, Mourinho is hopeful that Bale can return from injury quicker due to that trust remedy: desire.

“I don’t know when Gareth can be back,” Mourinho said on a Bale injury update. “The only thing that I know is that the motivation is high, he is so happy to be with a club of his heart, he is so happy to play for us and when a player has this motivation, many, many times you can shorten the period of recovering and shorten the period of getting fit and ready to play and we want to help him. So when he is available to train with the team, we are more than happy to have him and to be back to a level that [is] maybe one of the best players in the world.”

This is textbook Mourinho.

It has been noted many, many times that he hates players missing games due to injury and is less than sympathetic when someone is in the treatment room.

This seems like a challenge to Bale, 31, to prove just how much he wants to be back at Tottenham after spending the last seven seasons at Real Madrid. ‘Oh, you want to be back here? Prove it. Patch yourself up and be ready for next week.’ That will definitely probably be Mourinho’s chat with Bale next week.

There is no reason to risk Bale right now but when he is fit, having him play alongside Harry Kane and Heung-min Son in attack is a mouthwatering prospect for Mourinho and Tottenham. Their counterattacking prowess was clear for all to see in the second half at Southampton on Sunday and a fired up and fit Bale will add a lot to this attack.

Hurry up and get that dose of desire rubbed onto your knee, Gareth…

Leicester impressive again in 4-2 win over Burnley

Leave a comment

Leicester – Burnley saw Leicester City flex a bit of muscle en route to a mostly comfortable, yet somewhat thrilling, 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet and James Justin scored the goals for Leicester, plus an own goal from Erik Pieters, as Brendan Rodgers’ side made it two wins from two games to start their 2020-21 Premier League campaign.


3 things we learned: Leicester – Burnley

1. Leicester back for another crack at top-four: It’s only two games, admittedly, but Leicester have the look of a side out to prove that their late-season collapse, which saw them fall from third to fifth in the final five games of the 2019-20 season, was very much an aberration. Rodgers’ men hardly ever looked worried as they cruised to a win against last season’s 10th-place finishers.

2. Foxes firepower: Leicester managed to score four goals without a single one of them coming from Jamie Vardy, who bagged 23 last season. James Maddison only made his return from injury on Sunday as well, lending credence to the notion this is far from a one-man team as has, to a degree, been an issue in the past. They might not actually finish inside the top-four this season, but they have the look of a side with plenty of staying power.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements: Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.


Wood got the scoring started in Leicester – Burnley after just 10 minutes, with equal parts brute force and delicate touch. Charlie Taylor floated a cross to the back post, where Wood was waiting and battling for positioning with a defender. He managed to create a half-yard of space to allow for chest control and a quick, but difficult, finish from the corner of the six-yard box.

Jamie Vardy was instrumental in Leicester’s equalizer 10 minutes later, though hardly the typical manner in which he contributes to goals scored. Vardy latched onto a forward ball in an attempt to split the center backs, but was ultimately forced wide and to hold the ball up. He cut it back to Castagne, who played it on to Barnes for the far-post finish.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Leicester’s second goal was more a product on constant pressure than exquisite, incisive chance creation, but the ball hitting the back of the net counts all the same. Castagne overlapped down the right flank and hit a cross for Vardy as he streaked past the penalty spot. Erik Pieters wasn’t tight enough to Castagne to deny the cross, only to redirect it past the wrong-footed Nick Pope.

The Foxes’ third goal, however, was the result of a free-flowing attack involving a handful of blue shirts along the way. It ended with Ayoze Perez playing the ball across the penalty area and left back James Justin slotting home for his first PL goal in the 61st minute.

It was Justin who was beaten by Jimmy Dunne as he rose highest to bag a goal on his PL debut 12 minutes later, giving Burnley a brief glimmer of hope. 

It didn’t last long, though, as Dennis Praet bagged a stunning fourth goal for Leicester in the 79th minute. Barnes picked up the assist to go with his earlier goal, but it was Praet’s powerful finish that will get all of the headlines, and deservedly so.

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Klopp reaction on Thiago debut, Fabinho; loved ‘perfect’ Liverpool’s hunger

Leave a comment

The Klopp reaction from Chelsea v. Liverpool was full of smiles and laughs as he called the win ‘perfect’ in every way.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Jurgen Klopp is a happy, happy man. He usually is, but his side took care of a much talked about Chelsea with minimal fuss at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to make it two wins from two this season for the reigning Premier League champions.

Sure, Andreas Christensen’s sending off right on half time shaped the game but so too did the hunger of Sadio Mane to strike twice early in the second half to secure the win.

[ MORE: Player ratings

A penalty save from Alisson and a debut for Thiago Alcantara made Klopp even happier and as long as captain Jordan Henderson didn’t suffer a serious injury, he said the trip to Chelsea could not have gone better.

Thiago debut showcases why he was bought?

Speaking to ProSoccerTalk after the game via a Zoom call, we asked for the Klopp reaction on Thiago Alcantara’s debut display and if it underlined exactly why he was signed from Bayern Munich.

Thiago came on at half time and completed 75 passes in 45 minutes, a new Premier League record, as the Spanish international slotted in superbly and allowed Liverpool to dictate the tempo of the game against an opponent which sat back deep and was only focusing on defending.

“We signed Thiago for different reasons and only one of them is against deep defending sides. We improved in that department a lot, I have to say, with all of the players who were already there before. But, yes, it is something that suits him. It is natural to him. I like that. Of course it is good. It is one reason of a lot,” Klopp said.

Fabinho dazzles as a stand-in center back; Jurgen Klopp reaction

ProSoccerTalk also asked Klopp about Fabinho’s display, as the Brazilian switched from his usual position of holding midfield to center back due to injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

“Fabinho, yes! If Sadio wouldn’t have scored two goals then I think Fab would have been a proper contender for Man of the Match!” Klopp smiled. “I loved his performance, he played outstandingly well. He helped us a lot, with the ball and in defending as well. A proper performance.”

With Thiago arriving in midfield, Fabinho at center back could be something we see a lot more of this season, especially as Gomez and Matip have a nasty knack of picking up small injuries consistently.

Liverpool send out a message

Klopp admitted that his team are only focused on the three points each week, but when asked about making a statement early in the season by winning at a Chelsea side who has spent over $250 million on new players, the Liverpool boss raved about the performance of his side.

“I liked the performance a lot. We are not playing for two things, for three points and then showing everybody you ‘better be ready when we arrive’ or something. That’s not us,” Klopp said. “The next game will be incredibly difficult for their own reasons because Arsenal is obviously flying since a few months already, it is going to be really tough.

“For ourselves, and that we feel the way we play, with adaptations and improvements, with development, that made us successful and will make us successful if we really throw it consistently on the pitch. This Chelsea game away will, for the next 500 years, be one of the most difficult games you can ever play and it will become even more difficult now when all things things are settled for Chelsea. That is clear. For today, it was difficult enough but we did it and I’m happy enough.”