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:

10

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.   

9

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.

8

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.

7

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.

6

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. 

5

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).

4

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.

3

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.

2

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.

1

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

European Weekend Review by the Numbers – 2/12/2018

This past weekend has set the stage for the Champions League‘s round of 16 first leg. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick against Real Sociedad while Cristiano's Champions League round of 16 opposing star player, Neymar, netted the lone goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s win over Toulouse. Sergio Aguero tallied four goals in Manchester City’s impressive 5-1 victory over Leicester City while Tottenham edged Arsenal 1-0 though Harry Kane’s sublime goal.

Before Europe’s top clubs battle each other on Tuesday and Wednesday, let’s take a look back at the weekend’s domestic affairs in numbers.

10. Manchester City’s number 10 scored four goals on Leicester City, more than his three total Champions League goals this season. Kevin de Bruyne also put up a dazzling performance against, tallying three assists in Man City's 5-1 win over Leceister. The citizens will look to roll their league form into their Tuesday matchup against F.C. Basel.

9. Brazilian superstar Neymar registered a game high of 9 shots against Toulouse, from which he scored his 19th Ligue 1 goal of the season -- the game-winning goal in PSG’s 1-0 weekend victory. Sergio Ramos and his fellow Madrid defenders will make sure they keep an eye—and a boot—on Neymar in Wednesday's mouthwatering Champions League encounter.

8. Barcelona drew for the 8th time this season as Getafe held them to a stalemate. Not the ideal scoreline to go into a Champions League game against Chelsea, but on a bright note for Barca, Ousmane Dembele returned from injury and new signing Yerry Mina looked promising in his first start for the club.

7. Thomas Mueller’s 7th league-goal of the season from Arjen Robben’s 7th domestic assist was the winner in Bayern Munich’s 2-1 victory over Schalke 04. Munich hasn’t lost to Schalke in 7 years; they know how to beat them. But in the Champions League Bayern will face a team they have never met before, Beşiktaş J.K. of the Turkish Super Lig.

6. In Italy, Juventus and Napoli both passed the 60-point mark last weekend. Juve did so by blanking Fiorentina with Frederico Bernardeschi’s 56th minute opener and Gonzalo Higuain’s 86th minute goal. Napoli on the other hand, extended their unbeaten run over Lazio to 6 games with a 4-1 win.

5. Manchester United were hit with their 5th league loss of the season, days before they take on Sevilla in the Champions League. Newcastle United defeated the Red Devils thanks to Matt Ritchie’s 5th PL goal. Newcastle was winless in 5 outings before taking on Jose Mourinho’s men.

4. Michy Batshuayi will no longer be playing in the Champions League this season due to his move from Chelsea to Borussia Dortmund but it’s worth mentioning him here. Batsman is Borussia’s new superhero, it’s no longer Spider-Man (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang). Number 44 Batshuayi has been involved in all 4 of Dortmund’s goals since he has joined the club, scoring three and assisting one. He recently netted the opener of BVB’s 2-0 win over Hamburger SV.

3. Madrid goes into their Champions League clash with PSG on a 3-game unbeaten run largely due to 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo’s 3 goal performance in the club’s 5-2 win over Real Sociedad. Who’s betting on Ronaldo to score a hat trick against PSG too?

2. Mohamed Salah bagged 2 goals against Tottenham two weeks ago and over the weekend the Egyptian international scored a goal again against Southampton, which brings him to 22 Premier League goals on the 2017-18 season. Will Salah’s form roll over to Liverpool's clash with Porto on Wednesday?

1. The Premier League's number 1 goal scorer Harry Kane netted the solitary goal in Totteham’s North London Derby win over Arsenal on Saturday. The Spurs are going into the Champions League round of 16 without losing a game in a little over 1 month—that’s much needed when you’re playing reigning Serie A champions Juventus. As for Arsenal, they haven’t had a win streak in the Premier League since the 11th month of last year.

Author: Onz Chery

USSF Election Part III – The Hangover...and the 6 tweets that captured the day

The USSF elected a new president on Saturday...and everybody is still wondering...

WHAT ARE WE DOING?!  

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Well, Damn. My prediction turned out to be wrong, but I don’t think I was that far off. The establishment finally got their day of smug relief, reestablishing the power structure of the United States Soccer Federation. I was feeling momentum build behind Martino, Wynalda, and Solo, with the support of Gans/Winograd/Caliguiri. It felt like they were going to unify behind one figure-head giving voters a clear and unified face of change. The “Evolution” was being televised, and Gulati was going to usher in a new era, and *whoosh!* the United States henceforth would play free-flowing and creative soccer with integrity, exceeding joy, and equal pay! But then the speeches were given and the votes were cast.

An admittedly sleep-deprived Kyle Martino (his hair was still outstanding) enthusiastically pleaded with the voters to dig deep and do what was right, “Press button number 5 for beautiful soccer, pro/rel, and CHANGE!” Eric Wynalda expressed gratitude to all of the voters for their time and investment in the game, but he seemed tired of the whole process and in retrospect he may have already known which way the votes would fall.

If you missed Parts I & II leading up to the election, you can get caught up on the s***storm here:

Hope Solo gave the most compelling speech in my opinion. She called out Carlos Cordeiro and Kathy Carter individually for their misguided, immoral, and neglectful management of US Soccer business. Solo referenced her playing career extensively, which to many will appear arrogant, but in the realm of US Soccer there is a small group of people that I think we can agree matter more than anyone else; the players that represent our country on the national team. She wasn’t modest in pointing out that she was the best in the world, but it’s hard to disagree with her. Hope Solo has some broken relationships with past teammates, coaches, and people in power. That is a real bummer for all of us, and probably the reason she didn’t garner many votes in this election. But let’s move on now. I HOPE that the people in powerful positions are listening because Hope Solo has earned her voice in US Soccer. Honestly, I think the stars are aligning for Solo to come out of retirement, win another world cup, and defeat the establishment from the inside. I can’t wait for that movie.

Our new president, Mr. Carlos Cordeiro, led a quiet, uninspiring campaign and still took the win after three rounds of voting on Saturday. Campaigning is certainly not governing, but Cordeiro has a decade working by Sunil Gulati’s side as a board member, and most recently, as VP of US Soccer. During that time he has done very little to improve the game of soccer in this country.

Before US Soccer, Cordeiro had an impressive career in international finance working for Goldman Sachs. There is no doubt in my mind that he is THE man you want to help manage your offshore bank accounts and diversify your portfolio, which is why Gulati likes him so much. But as president of the USSF? Don’t think so, and man oh man, neither does the twitter-verse. Below, we offer a list of the 6 tweets that we think captured this historic moment. 

1. Bill Simmons - Sums up Cordeiro’s victory and background.

simmons tweet.jpg

2. Grant Wahl - How can anybody ever be upset with or question the integrity of Grant Wahl? He is such a solid soccer dork. Always respectful, always probing with well-timed questions. Only 12 of the 20 members on the Athlete’s Council attended the election. And Wahl’s harmless observation was “that’s weird”. The members in this group, including Jonathan Spector and Brad Guzan, held conference calls the day before, and reached a consensus to form a voting bloc in support of Cordeiro (like the Athlete's Council has done historically). But we didn’t know that at the time. Big deal. Ignore the controversy over their voting decision for a moment, and consider instead the thin skin on display throughout this entire election process.

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3. Stu Holden - I must admit, I love Stu Holden and Carlos Bocanegra, but it was weird to see them immediately take a dry, corporate approach about their decision. Maybe Cordeiro did offer them solid plans and they made the right decision. It’s just strange that after months of hearing from the players how poorly the USSF leadership is, they would go ahead and elect more of the same. And, poor Stu. A seemingly diplomatic, and non-confrontational tweet got ripped to shreds. Those 200 plus replies are a single stream of pure twitter rage, my god.

stu holden - trigger tweet.jpg

4. Gang of Six? - What was up with this conspiracy theory on Thursday? It was looking like all of the candidates minus Cordeiro and Carter were ready to team up like the Avengers. Or maybe Jeff just drafted this word doc because nobody wanted to talk to him that day. I don’t know.

gang of 6 nonsense.jpg

5. Kathy Carter - A picture really is worth a 1,000 emojis. 

carter - angry emojis tweet.jpg

 

6. Hugo Perez - Why isn’t this guy our president? Or Earnie Stewart? So much talent in this country and we wasted it on this circus.

hugo perez, retweet by herc (1).jpg

 

Author: Sean Malvey

USSF Election Part II - The Issues & Baby Drama

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) will Elect a new President  on Saturday...and everybody is still wondering… WHAT ARE WE DOING?    

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The USSF election this Saturday will be the most important moment in US Soccer history. Earlier in the week, I made a fairly gruesome, far-fetched prediction that Gulati will somehow take the day (even though he is not even running). Jokes aside, the eight candidates find themselves duking it out over real issues and drama that could only happen in the Land of the Free.

The Issues

For starters, the topic of SUM (Soccer United Marketing), the all-powerful business entity that everybody kinda sorta knows, deserves an entire textbook. If you don't know about SUM you are not alone. Even in the niche American soccer community few people truly understand what they do. At the United Soccer Coaches Convention Wynalda and Solo both asked during separate sessions to those in attendance if they knew what SUM was, and out of the nearly 1,000 combined in attendance at those talks, only a baker's dozen raised their hands. Incredible. Incredible because as more details about SUM are revealed, we learn how influential their business is to US Soccer and MLS. From a sterile economics perspective, SUM has been extremely effective at growing revenue for US Soccer, which now sits on a $150m surplus. In addition, the company assumes all financial risk for their partnership with US Soccer, which Garber and Gulati praise as the main reason USSF has remained profitable, despite the economic recession in ‘08, and the USMNT omission from World Cup ‘18.

If you don't know about SUM you are not alone. Even in the niche American soccer community few people truly understand what they do.

Regardless of SUM's business success, it's clear the candidates are incredibly suspicious of the company's role in US Soccer. Hope Solo rightly criticized SUM's distribution of US Soccer revenue towards the USWNT and USMNT, another topic that deserves its own in-depth coverage. Martino claimed that SUM directed the USMNT to play their World Cup Qualifying match against Costa Rica in Red Bull Arena, deliberately prioritizing ticket sales over the team's preference for home field advantage (the USMNT lost that match).

Another point of contention for the candidates and fans is Sunil Gulati’s "business first, soccer second" model. Most agree that there have not been enough "soccer minds" driving decisions in this country. Gulati, for right or wrong, has been the face of such contempt. He certainly doesn't ooze athletic or coaching prowess and has little street cred from former players. Yet, I think we have all come down way too hard on Gulati's body of work. The new president may quickly discover that many of their immediate problems would probably be best solved (or advised?) by Gulati, who has an economist's mind, with decades of organizational experience. Everybody now knows US Soccer has money to spend, but it's not so easy directing and defending where those dollars should go, and why. As much as this pains me to write, Gulati undoubtedly has been THE driving force behind growing the game of soccer in this country, and has put us in a much better place now, compared to 30 years ago. But it's clear we have plateaued as a soccer nation, and many of our current problems are soccer problems that need soccer solutions.

And this is where it gets truly complicated. Media deals and savvy accounting tactics are one thing, but fixing deep-rooted structural soccer problems is something else entirely. A "short" list of these challenges:

  • Fixing pay to play - Connor and Ashley's parents shell out $5k a year to play. They still suck and we can't justify why we make 10 year olds travel hours to play in meaningless tournaments. There is a reason why we rarely produce a Christian Pulisic or Mallory Pugh; most kids are priced out of the game before they even start.
  • Undefined leadership roles - Klinsmann was hired as both Coach and Technical Director, clearly that didn't work. Candidates have asked for clearer separation of roles, and additional general/business manager positions within USSF.
  • Coaching badges are expensive, and the standards seem to change each year - If you want to pursue a career in coaching, or even a side-hustle, be ready to shell out thousands of dollars. It also doesn’t matter if you are a former college player or semi-pro. I remember making a wisecrack to one of the instructors during my "E" license training course (an all weekend event), saying something to the effect of, "so you guys are going to scrap this entire module as soon as they sack Klinsmann, right?" Bob, or whatever his name was, didn’t find that amusing.
  • MLS is a closed system, and semi pro/amateur soccer is ignored - I want you to take off your American business cap for just a moment and try to logically argue why promotion/relegation is a bad idea... ok, caps back on. Pro/rel's immediate, complete implementation at every level of the soccer pyramid may be impractical right now, but that doesn't mean we should continue to do nothing with this topic. In fact, there are plenty of talented teams and supporters out there that embody the spirit of pro/rel, like some of our outstanding partners here at DSD. In addition, the U.S. Open Cup is by far the most entertaining and historical tournament in the country. Who wouldn’t want to get behind Christos FC, and watch an MLS team get knocked off by the little guy?
  • Lack of USWNT and USMNT pay equity and transparency - Equal salary, one federation. Not that hard.
  • Ineffective, under-employed scouting network - Last I checked we have one official US Scout, Thomas Rongen. ONE SCOUT for the entire nation! And that dude is on beIN sports every weekend, awkwardly demonstrating slow-mo soccer movements in his euro suit.
  • Disconnect with Latino community (and non-vanilla peoples in general) - The loss of Jonathan Gonzalez hurts because who knows how many like him have been, and will be, picked up by our arch-rivals. You know this is a serious structural problem when guys like Hercules Gomez and Hugo Perez  back the issue with their personal accounts.
  • Crappy pro calendar - Like, I get it, Wynalda. We should switch to the FIFA calendar. But who is playing in Minnesota and New England in January? Until we reach a future like that in Minority Report, where we have domed soccer specific stadiums for every club, I don't see this playing out. However, we could definitely tweak the MLS calendar so that it's more relevant. Shorten the season to end by Thanksgiving weekend and eventually scrap playoffs all together (when pro/rel is implemented)? About the playoff system, we are soccer players and fans that have spent our entire lives following this game, so for us, we will watch it even if there is no seven game series at the end of the season.
  • Youth development culture - I don't think the entire system is flawed but certainly the constant changes in our youth leagues and the archaic nature of ODP, high school, and college soccer has us moving in different directions. Pulisic was right: young American soccer players aged 16-18 have limited professional opportunities here, and that needs to change if we truly want to improve. I loved playing multiple sports as a kid, and who's to say late-bloomers/comers to the game won't become pros, but we need more teenage soccer players signing pro contracts and experiencing what it’s like to compete for a starting position EVERY SINGLE DAY.  

Baby Drama...

And as if the issues up for debate weren't tricky enough, there has been plenty of drama throughout this election cycle that has left both candidates, fans, and players shaking their heads in disbelief.  

Both Steve Gans and the NASL have voiced separate concerns over the Election process. Gans, in particular, has asked for independent observers on voting day. His reason? A number of "midstream" changes from US Soccer have given Gans the impression that the governing body is making up the rules on the fly. Similarly, the NASL has complained about their distribution of votes (which I described previously) within the Pro Council. One of four pro organizations in the council, the NASL barely garners any votes compared to the rest: MLS 57.4%, NWSL 18.05%, NASL 4.51%, USL 20.3%.

...we have never seen so many people, from different ages and backgrounds, care so deeply about the progress of soccer in this country.

In addition, the NASL has also filed an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF. And speaking about bold moves, remember back in summer 2017, when Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva - through his international media company MP & Silva - offered MLS a $4 billion media rights deal with the stipulation that they enact a system of pro/rel? Of course you do. And of course MLS balked at the offer due to their organizational set up with SUM/US Soccer, but damn that's a lot of cheddah.

Silva and the NASL have also provided some financial backing to Wynalda's campaign. I think by now we can see Wynalda and his supporters' agenda, but who cares? Everybody else, from the incumbent to the candidates, has an agenda too. And to that point, we have heard the current candidates regurgitate the same talking points for months now without having the chance to challenge each other in open debate. Apparently, during the most recent event hosted by United Soccer Coaches, the candidates were supposed to debate, but the organizers changed plans last minute.

And to add to his legend, apparently during the event Gulati was so visibly put off with the entire field of candidates that he wanted to debate all eight at the same time. Eye roll, this guy. It has been apparent that since the World Cup loss, both Arena and Gulati have taken a graceless, annoying defensive stance, which has played well for Wynalda's campaign.

The Next Steps

Regardless of the result on February 10th, one important takeaway from this entire circus is that we have never seen so many people, from different ages and backgrounds, care so deeply about the progress of soccer in this country. If anything, the bumps along the way provide identifiable pain points that the next president can target with certainty. The new leader can enact swift changes starting this year with regards to coaching, youth development, and adult/semi-pro outreach. As much as I joke about these people and issues, I want the same thing we all do: to improve the game of soccer in this country for the benefit of ALL Americans. It's my hope that one day instead of asking, "what are we doing?", we can say "this is how you do it". Unite & Strengthen.

Author: Sean Malvey

Fantasy Five - Tips for your Fantasy Premier League team 2/8/18

Another Premier League weekend is just around the corner, featuring a North London derby, a crucial relegation clash between Stoke and Brighton, Virgil Van Dijk’s return to Southampton with Liverpool, and much more besides. With some teams recovering from midweek FA Cup antics and others preparing for European fixtures in the week ahead, getting your Fantasy Premier League team right could be a challenge, but luckily our friends at Armchair Fancast – the weekly podcast discussing all the latest happenings from the Premier League – are here to help with five great value picks for the week. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here, and follow them on Twitter here!

  1. Alfie Mawson (SWA, £5.1): Swansea’s recovery under Carlos Carvalhal has caught many by surprise, not least the shoring up of their defence, which has only conceded six times in six games since the former Sheffield Wednesday boss came on board (by way of comparison they leaked 15 goals in the previous six games). Mawson has shown attacking threat as well as defensive prowess recently, and his match against Burnley this weekend is the first of five consecutive matches for the Swans that look eminently winnable.
  2. Nathan Ake (BOU, £5.0): Bournemouth are unbeaten in 7 games – their longest ever such run in the Premier League – while opponents Huddersfield have plummeted to 19th thanks to five consecutive defeats, four of which were to nil. This all suggests a comfortable away win for the Cherries this weekend and quite possibly a clean sheet too, so any of their back line is a good choice. We’ve picked Ake here because he carries the most attacking threat, having scored in the win against Chelsea last week and also against West Ham over Christmas.
  3. James Ward-Prowse (SOU, £5.1): Who do you think is the most in-form player in the game? Salah? Aguero? Hazard perhaps? All wrong – it’s James Ward-Prowse, averaging over 9 points in the last 4 gameweeks. His rise in form has mirrored his team’s too – Southampton haven’t lost in the league since 2nd January and are hosting a Liverpool side that has conceded at least once in 10 of its 13 away games so far. Ward-Prowse is still only owned by about 2% of players too, so it’s worth jumping on this bandwagon now before everyone else realises what they’re missing.
  4. Xherdan Shaqiri (STK, £6.1): Stoke are still struggling near the foot of the table despite Paul Lambert’s arrival, but one man who looks rejuvenated is Shaqiri. The Swiss midfielder picked up a goal and 2 bonus points despite his team’s loss to Bournemouth last weekend, and his performances suggest that plenty more may follow. With the exception of a trip to the Etihad, Stoke’s next 5 games look reasonable – especially this Saturday afternoon against Brighton, who have the worst scoring record of any team in the league away from home.
  5. Salomon Rondon (WBA, £6.0): Whether or not this is a good pick all depends on just how bad you think things are at Chelsea. On paper a home match against the bottom team in the league should be a breeze, but something is clearly wrong at Stamford Bridge following the recent disasters against Bournemouth and Watford. If Conte’s men find that bad news really does come in threes (and that still remains a huge “if”) then Rondon is the most likely to benefit – he’s the Baggies’ joint top goalscorer, having most recently netted in last week’s 3-2 loss to Southampton.

Author: Dave Bradshaw

Top Bundesliga Winter Transfers

More money and talent was exchanged this January than ever before. Coutinho, finally, is playing at Camp Nou and Alexis Sanchez has traded places with Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the Premier League. In the Bundesliga, several moves have the potential to give teams at the bottom of the table a big push in their fight to remain in the top flight, while allowing teams at the top of the table to enhance their chances of qualifying for European competition or even winning a title. Below, we take a look at the seven transfers that could have the biggest implications for the league table as the season nears its end.


#7 Nigel de Jong | Galatasary to Mainz 05

Nigel de Jong has played for some of the best teams around Europe (and the LA Galaxy) before joining Galatasaray. Additionally, he was part of the Netherlands World Cup squad that made it all the way to the final in 2010.There’s no disputing the fact that de Jong brings a lot of experience, toughness, and character to the squad. Sitting 16th in the Bundesliga with a goal differential of -13, Mainz is desperate to bolster their defensive prowess. Nigel de Jong will hopefully provide some stability in the center of the field as a holding midfielder. At the age of 33, the Dutchman is doing well to still be playing in the Bundesliga. Will his wisdom and experience help Mainz stay in the top flight?

#6 Marko Pjaca | Juventus to Schalke 04

Schalke fans can enjoy watching the 22-year-old Croatian winger on loan from Juventus until the end of the season. After Bayern, the top of the Bundesliga table is extremely tight.  Just 6 points separate 2nd place Leverkusen from 8th place Augsburg. Schalke, tied on points with Dortmund, is right in that mix of teams striving for a Champions League spot next season. They need goal-scoring prowess to accomplish their goal. Young and dynamic Marko Pjaca is equipped to help with that. Pjaca scored in his Schalke debut, a friendly against Genk. Are there more goals to come as Pjaca takes on his new task with Schalke?

#5 Sandro Wagner | Hoffenheim to Bayern Munich

There has long been a debate in Munich about Bayern missing a viable option at the Striker position behind Robert Lewandowski. The Bavarians hope to have found that in hometown boy Sandro Wagner. After starting his career in Bayern’s youth academy, Wagner moved around Germany for a number of years. His resurgence began at Darmstadt. Since the ‘15/’16 season, he has scored 33 goals for Darmstadt and Hoffenheim. Wagner also scored 5 times in 7 appearances for the national team. The self-proclaimed “best German striker” now arrives back at Bayern, ready to perform. He did so in his most recent game, tapping home a cross against his former club Hoffenheim. It remains to be seen if this move will give Sandro a better chance at a call up for the World Cup squad.  

#4 Mario Gomez | Wolfsburg to VFB Stuttgart

Gomez is another Striker returning home. Playing Stuttgart up until 08/09, he won his first Bundesliga title and scored 63 goals over 4 seasons. Gomez returns to see Stuttgart near the relegation zone. With one of the worst offenses in the league, having scored only 16 total goals thus far, Gomez hopes to provide a spark. Just this past weekend, he grabbed an important equalizer to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw against his former club, Wolfsburg. New manager Tayfun Korkut is turning things in the right direction for Stuttgart. Similarly to Wagner, Gomez wants to impress Jogi Löw ahead of the World Cup. Some of Gomez’s 31 International goals have been crucial in the past for Germany. If he can get his performances back on track, and potentially save Stuttgart from relegation, there’s a chance that the 32-year-old could make the World Cup squad.

#3 Simon Terodde | Stuttgart to FC Cologne (Köln)

At the Bundesliga halfway-mark, Cologne was hopeless, sitting at the bottom of the table, with just 6 points from 17 matches. Three games into the new year, the outlook is already much better. A new hope, Star Wars fans could call it. That hope is Simon Terodde. With a new coach and Terodde at the forefront of Cologne’s attack, the club has already earned more points in January than they did in the first half of the season. A big reason for that is Simon Terodde, who scored a 95th minute game-winner in his first game against rivals Gladbach, followed by a brace against Hamburg, who are now just 4 points ahead of Cologne in the table. Thanks to Terodde, The Billy Goats are alive.

#2 Leon Goretzka | Schalke to Bayern Munich (in the summer)

Goretzka won’t move to Bayern until the summer, but the papers have been signed. As one of Germany’s most promising young talents, Goretzka has been the subject of numerous rumors. Up until the last minute, Schalke fans hoped he would extend his contract. He has scored 19 goals and assisted 14 in 132 games for Schalke. Turning down offers from various big-name clubs around Europe, Goretzka signed with the German giants. The 22-year old will follow in the footsteps of Bayern midfield legends such as Matthäus, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, and many more. The potential is there for Goretzka to become one of those legends, and we will likely see more of his talent on display in Russia this summer.

#1 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang | Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal

After 4-and-a-half years at Dortmund, the drama and rumors surrounding Aubameyang finally came to a close. The Gabonian Striker is a Gunner. In 213 games for Dortmund, Aubameyang scored 141 goals and tallied 36 assists. Aubameyang scored 13 goals in 16 Bundesliga games this season before his departure. He leaves behind a hole that will not easily be filled, especially considering the injury problems that always seem to plague Dortmund. To fill the void, Dortmund has brought in Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea, who could be the perfect man for the job at Dortmund. Batshuayi scored twice in his Dortmund debut (assisted by Pulisic, the Great). He fits perfectly into the Dortmund scheme and attacking mindset, and has certainly brought delight to the clubs and country for which he has played throughout his career. Aubameyang’s free-scoring play (and stunning hair) will be missed in the Bundesliga, but Dortmund hope to re-establish their standing at the top of the table with more focus on the game and less drama off the field. 


Stay tuned for more coverage of the biggest transfers and juiciest rumors from around Europe and the world.  What do you think? What was the biggest transfer of the January window? What is the biggest transfer to come this summer?  Which clubs are destined for relegation? 

Author: Felix Dalstein

USSF Election Part 1 - The Candidates and the Voting Process


The United States Soccer Federation will Elect a new President on Saturday and everybody is still wondering…

WHAT ARE WE DOING?  

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US Soccer is days away from electing a new President, and the process has been, in one word, entertaining. Depending on who you ask, the eight candidates vying for the position appear to have everything and nothing to offer. The beautiful sh*t storm of issues that is American soccer has engulfed an altruistic cast of characters. This all leaves most of us just as enraged as Taylor Twellman back in November. The only thing guaranteed is that the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on February 8 - 10 in Orlando, Florida will alter the course of US Soccer history, for better or worse.

Let’s take a brief look at our eight valiant patriots, and the perplexing election process that awaits them.

The Candidates

Kathy Carter – Currently on-leave from her role as president of Soccer United Marketing (commonly known as SUM, the controversial, yet powerful, economic partner to US Soccer and MLS). Carter, a former goalkeeper at The College of William & Mary (class of ‘90), holds an impressive resume in the business of US Soccer, which makes her a logical candidate for an internal hire. She may be a long shot, but then again, her standing in the soccer-industrial complex of SUM, MLS, and USSF will at least translate into a handful of insider votes. 

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Steve Gans – Boston-based attorney and former professional indoor player that has business experience with US youth clubs, and the Premier League. Similar to the other lawyer in the field, Gans seems wholly competent but may be too much of an outsider to gain traction. If anything, he has played an important role in questioning the USSF’s apparent midstream rule changes. More on that later.

Hope Solo – It’s difficult to take Solo seriously due to her late arrival in the race, but she has actually presented some decent arguments against pay-to-play, and the business first model of US Soccer. Undoubtedly, she had a dominant career with the USWNT, but she is a polarizing figure for such a high-profile role. She has earned her stay somewhere in the structure of US Soccer, but it appears that she doesn’t quite have enough people in her corner yet. Perhaps, USMNT Director of Goalkeeping?

Paul Caligiuri – Most famous for scoring THE goal that sent the US to their first World Cup in 1990 after a 40-year drought. Like many of the other candidates, he does support pro/rel, but lacks the celebrity profile of Wynalda and Martino. Also, pretty sure he doesn’t have a website, which has absolutely nothing to do with his capacity to lead a multi-million dollar organization, but, meh.

Carlos Cordeiro – The male version of Kathy Carter. Ok that's a discredit to both, but Cordeiro is the current VP of US Soccer, and like Solo, entered the race when it was "cool". Even though he claims to have split ties with Gulati, he has struggled to shake suspicions that he is nothing more than Sunil's puppet.

Michael Winograd – The other attorney, and former professional player in Israel. He also has some coaching and administrative experience at the college and semi-pro level. Winograd has actually appeared stronger with each interview, and public presentation. Among his policy plans, he wants to create development centers in every state and is one of many candidates in support of solidarity payments (more on that later as well). Unfortunately, he and Gans will probably be overlooked for more popular candidates due to the fact that this is, in part, a popularity contest.

Eric Wynalda –  By far the most hyped candidate in the US Soccer twitter-verse. Wynalda also has the backing of powerful lower league administrators and youth clubs. He has managed to tap into the anger many fans feel, proving once more an effective tactic in current American politics. On top of his stellar playing career, Wynalda has been the most vocal champion of pro/rel, switching to a FIFA calendar, and improving development and visibility at the Amateur and Semi-Pro levels. Opponents to his campaign argue he lacks business managerial experience, and some have referenced, rather crudely, his personal financial troubles following a bad divorce back in '03. Not going to lie, I like the guy, but if he wins, I just hope he doesn't burn the whole house down based on principle.  

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Kyle Martino  –  At least in social media, the only other true competitor to Wynalda. Although, there are rumblings that these two figures would be open to joining forces, regardless of who wins. Martino had a respectable playing career being selected 8th overall by the Columbus Crew and being named MLS Rookie of the Year. He earned his first international cap on November 17, 2002, against El Salvador and whether his intentions are earnest or not, credit is due for leaving a cushy NBC Sports job to campaign for an unpaid position. He also has public backing from Thierry Henry and David Beckham, for whatever that's worth. And, most importantly, LOOK AT THAT HEAD OF HAIR, my god. For all his quaff, Martino lacks serious coaching and business management.

Christian Pulisic – Just playing, he's not an official candidate, but I think most of us would let the Boy-King select everything from the starting XI, to the orange slices at half time.


The Voting Process - e pluribus unum or et tu brute?

So how are these candidates going to be selected? Pretty straight forward, just your standard constitutional autocratic monarchy with unlimited varying single and double digit weighted votes. I exaggerate a tad, but votes seem to be designated to a dizzying combination of affiliates, past presidents (Sunil does what Sunil wants), the current US Soccer Board of Directors (which includes Garber and Cordeiro), an Athlete's Council, as well as several lifetime members.

The overall number of votes awarded depends on the number of registered members in attendance during voting day (not encouraging any stupidity from rogue AO chapters, but for the prosperity of the federation, votes are counted only for those WHO MAKE IT TO THE AGM). We can expect the distribution of votes to play out in the following way: the Athlete's Council will receive 20%, Youth, Adult, and Pro Councils to split their voting percentages equally around 25% each, and the remaining will garner about 2%.

All votes will be cast via secret electronic ballot during the National Council Meeting on Saturday morning, February 10th. The newly elected president will begin his or her term effective immediately at the conclusion of that meeting.

My prediction: by 10:00 pm that night the old guard, led by their fearless professor, will storm the celebratory dance party for the newly formed triumvirate of Martino-Solo-Wynalda, located in the main ballroom of the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. Armed with electric eels, stingrays and sea urchins, Gulati's henchmen will enact vicious revenge, slaughtering all in their way, and by midnight, the US Soccer polity will retract back into status quo complacency.


To be continued...

While my prediction is fanciful, the issues and drama surrounding these candidates are incredibly real and complex. But stay tuned, in Part II and Part III later this week I will paint the rest of that picture.

Author: Sean Malvey

 

European Weekend Preview by the Numbers – 2/2/2018

Three of the top six Premier League teams dropped points during the midweek, shaking up the table as we head into the weekend. Chelsea crumbled against Bournemouth, Tottehnham took down Manchester United and scored one of the quickest goals in Premier League history (Eriksen in the 11th second), and the Swans grabbed three crucial points against Arsenal as they continued to scrap their way out of the relegation zone. 

As if that wasn’t enough, just look at what’s coming up this weekend around Europe:

  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could debut for Arsenal 

  • Barcelona could set a club-record season-opening 22-match unbeaten streak in La Liga

  • Liverpool host Tottenham (the Spurs have won just 2 times in their last 25 matches at Anfield)

  • Atletico Madrid (2nd in La Liga) travels to Valencia (3rd in La Liga)

  • Lyon (2nd in Ligue 1) hosts Monaco (4th in Ligue 1)

  • There's more!

Hold your breath and count to ten:

1. In Serie A, only 1 point separates league-leader Napoli (57 pts) from second-place Juventus (56 pts). Napoli will have an opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table as they take on rock-bottom-of-the-table Benevento on Sunday.  Juventus faces 14th placed Sassuolo, also on Sunday.

2. A win or a draw on Sunday against Espanyol will grant Barcelona a new club-record for the longest unbeaten run to start the season, 22 games (currently, 18-3-0 in La Liga competition). Barca will play Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium where they lost 1-0 on January 17th in the Copa del Rey. 

3. The 3rd-best player in the world, Neymar, was heavily criticized for offering his hand to help Rennes player Hamari Traore up then quickly pulling it back and for showboating during Paris St. Germain’s midweek game. Neymar and PSG will play Lille during the weekend where all eyes will be on the Brazilian superstar to see how he reacts on the field to the criticism. Lille broke a 3-game losing run against Strasbourg last weekend.

4. Still in France, Lyon hosts Monaco at the Groupama Stadium on Sunday for one of the most anticipated matches of the weekend. Lyon and Monaco are leveled with Marseille for the second-most league victories in France, winning 14 outings each.  Combined, they have 4 of the top 10 scorers in Ligue 1: Radamel Falcao (16 goals), Nabil Fekir (16), Mariano Diaz (13), and Memphis Depay (9). 4 words for you: don’t miss this game.

5. Bayern Munich is galloping at the top of the Bundesliga with 50 points (16 points ahead of 2nd and 3rd place Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke). The German juggernaut’s next game is against Mainz 05. Bayern scored 5 goals last week to down Hoffenheim.

6. Atletico Madrid visits Valencia on Sunday for a massive La Liga fixture. Second-place Atletico leads third-place Valencia by 6 points. However, both teams have been underperforming; each side has only grabbed points in half of their last 6 outings. If you’re betting on this one keep in mind that Atletico will go into the match with a 6-game unbeaten run against Los Che.

7. Manchester United failed to tally a 7th straight clean sheet during the midweek, conceding a goal 11 seconds into their 2-0 defeat against Tottenham. United will look to bounce back as they face 17th-placed Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Alexis Sánchez will don the iconic Manchester United number 7 shirt for the first time at Old Trafford. 

8. Things aren’t looking good for Arsenal. The club lost to Swansea City on Tuesday and is now 8 points below a Champions League spot. The Gunners will fight to avoid an 8th league defeat against Everton this weekend. The Toffees on the other hand won their 8th domestic game in the midweek by defeating 8th place Leicester City 2-1, thanks to a double from their new signing, Theo Walcott.

9. There is some good news for Arsenal. 9-year professional player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and 29-year-old Mkhitaryan are set to make their Gunners debuts against Everton at the Emirates Stadium, despite some murmurs of illness.

10. The Spurs have a chance at a 10-game unbeaten run this weekend, but they’ll have to earn it at Anfield on Sunday. Tottenham beat Liverpool at home in October to snap Liverpool’s 10-game unbeaten run against the Spurs. This enticing fixture pits the league’s top scorers – Harry Kane #10 (21 goals this season) and Mo Salah (19 goals)against two of the league’s best defenders, Virgil van Dijk and Jan Vertonghen.


Oh, and apparently there's a big American Football game on Sunday too.  Enjoy the weekend. 

Author: Onz Chery

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

We’re already into February, and there are just 13 gameweeks left in this Premier League season, so the pressure is on for everyone heading into this weekend. Tottenham visit Liverpool in a game that could have a huge effect on the race for Champions League qualification, Everton’s Theo Walcott returns to his old club Arsenal with a point to prove, Man City look to edge closer towards the title at Burnley, and there are key battles in the relegation dogfight as Bournemouth host Stoke, Brighton play West Ham, and West Brom entertain Southampton. But who amongst all of those key games should be in your FPL team? Here with their top five suggestions are 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. Kasper Schmeichel (LEI, £5.0): Before Walcott came alive against Leicester on Wednesday the 2016 champions were on a run of three consecutive clean sheets, and there is good reason to believe they can get back to that kind of defensive reliability this weekend. Their opponents are Swansea who – for all of their recent heroics at home against Liverpool and Arsenal – have still only won on the road twice in twelve attempts this season, scoring just 8 times in the process. Schmeichel remains an asset for the Foxes and has been instrumental in their recent good form, especially at Chelsea where his 7 saves helped him pick up maximum bonus points. Definitely one to consider this week. 
  2. Nacho Monreal (ARS, £5.7): Only Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso has scored more goals from defence in this year’s Premier League than Monreal, who hit the net for the second game in a row against Swansea midweek. That game underlined the Gunners’ vulnerability on the road, but don’t overlook that they have the Emirates is still something of a fortress: Arsenal have only lost once all season in front of their home fans while Saturday night’s visitors Everton have only one away win to their name. A resurgent Walcott is the wildcard here, but otherwise all signs point to a quiet night for Monreal and the rest of the Arsenal back line.
  3. Anthony Martial (MUN, £8.1): United’s capitulation at Wembley on Wednesday should raise eyebrows for all FPL managers, but let’s not get carried away: the Red Devils will still be overwhelming favourites against a Huddersfield team in freefall, and Martial remains one of the most in-form players in the entire league. The reverse fixture back in October saw the Terriers pick up a famous victory against Mourinho’s men, but a trip to Old Trafford is a different ball game entirely, and a fine opportunity for Martial to add to the 9 goals and 5 assists he has already earned in this campaign.
  4. Junior Stanislas (BOU, £5.9): Has there been a more surprising result all season than Bournemouth routing Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday? Eddie Howe’s men were patient, persistent and extremely well-organised throughout, and a couple of players in particular stood out: one was Callum Wilson, but Junior Stanislas was exceptional too, scoring one goal and making another. The English winger has only played a full 90 minutes on two occasions so far this season, but the odds must be good that he’ll play the whole game against Stoke this week, and with only 0.2% of FPL managers currently selecting him, he could be a difference maker for anyone who puts their faith in him. 
  5. Olivier Giroud (CHE, £8.2): Let’s assume Chelsea’s defeat this week was an anomaly in an otherwise solid recent run for the champions – but one area where they desperately needed reinforcements was up front, especially with Morata injured. Enter Olivier Giroud, a proven Premier League goalscorer whose signing brings the added bonus for Chelsea fans that it has deeply upset many Arsenal supporters. Monday night will almost certainly see his debut for the Blues at Watford, the team with the worst home record in the competition. The chances are therefore good that the Frenchman can immediately start proving that he was worth his £18 million price tag.

Author: Dave Bradshaw

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It’s Only a Derby If It’s a Derby

Growing up as a teenager in the 1970's was exciting and wondrous. I discovered soccer and the creative rebellious energy of that era will always be a guiding force for me and a force that I generally use for good. My history teacher in high school was from Scotland and quite brilliant and resourceful at finding ways to integrate soccer films into our lesson plan and it was there that I watched my first soccer game and learned that it was called a "match". It was a whole new world for me as I had never heard terms such as "gutted" and "shocking" used before in American sports commentary but the word that really stuck with me was "derby". A super 8 projector started rolling and the lights were turned off as Manchester United v Manchester City appeared on the cheesy silver video screen. How much have things changed since back then? Manchester City were bottom dwellers and had no money to buy players while Manchester United played with flair and style. As I watched the number 7 for United I thought to myself "this is the coolest man on the planet", his name was George Best. His long hair and fantastic dribbling skills had me hooked and my obsession with the sport began that day. The commentators kept referring to it being a "derby" and I made a mental note to ask my teacher later what that meant.

His explanation was simple and direct: it was when two teams from the same city or town play each other. The phrase most likely originated from The Derby, a horse race in England founded by the 12th Earl of Derby in 1780, since at least as early as 1840 "derby" has been used as a noun in English to denote a sporting contest of two rivals of close geographical proximity. Another possible origin of the term is that the town of Derby was renowned as the site of a chaotic and exuberant game that involved the whole town and often resulted in fatalities. The goals were at Nuns Mill in the north and the Gallows Balk in the south of the town, and much of the action took place in the River Derwent of the Markeaton Brook. Normally the players came from All Saints and St Peter's parishes, but in practice the game was a free for all with as many as 1,000 players. A Frenchman who observed the match in 1829 wrote in horror, "if Englishmen call this play, it would be impossible to say what they call fighting". The traditional Shrovetide football match is still an annual event in the town of Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

In the United States a derby would simply be called a "crosstown rival" game and there would be no confusion whatsoever as to what that means. Recently I have seen in print and heard the Barcelona v Real Madrid game being called a derby game. NO! STOP! THIS IS NOT A DERBY GAME! It's a rivalry and you can call it "El Classico" but  Barcelona is 387 miles from Madrid or 622 kilometers (as of this writing only Burma, Liberia and America are not on the metric system but that's a whole other rant). A wise man once said "if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem". I beg of you, when you hear someone misuse the D word, please call them out on it and patiently explain it to them. Now that we have that sorted out, I have to turn my attention to my next mission by letting youth coaches in my area know that it's "offside", not "offsides". The struggle is real but staying silent is what compounds problems and always remember that it's only a derby if it's a derby.

Author: Kristopher Klassen

NCAA: A look back at the Princeton Lady Tiger’s 2017 season

2017 was a remarkable NCAA season for a school known more for its intellectual prowess than its muscle on the soccer pitch. The Lady Tigers of Princeton made an impressive run into the NCAA tournament; falling 3-1 to UCLA in the elite eight. This was their 12th NCAA tourney appearance and 3rd in the last six seasons. Princeton ended their 2017 campaign with an impressive 16-3-1 overall record and claimed their 9th Ivy League Conference title in dramatic fashion – In an emotionally charged final game of the regular season against Penn, who they have not defeated in 7 years (0-2-2 dating back to 2012), the Lady Tigers grinded out a 1-0 win on the road to clinch back-to-back conference titles.

The win fueled the Lady Tigers going in to the NCAA tournament where they defeated North Carolina State, a nationally ranked ACC representative for the second time this season. With momentum in their favor, Princeton upset the North Carolina Tars Heals, ranked #2 in the nation at the time, 2-1 in overtime, for a right to advance to the elite eight.

“I told the kids this morning, I woke up at four, I was staring at the ceiling. It was like Christmas Day, the opportunity. I wasn't nervous; I was just so excited to get a chance to play against what has been the best program in women's soccer”, head coach Sean Driscoll said (goprincetontigers.com). The young women felt their coach’s words of passion deeply and were proud to halt the Tar Heels from earning a 22nd national title.

Junior forward Hailie Mace helped UCLA take down Virginia 2-1 to advance to the NCAA quarterfinal. (Edward Figueroa/Daily Bruin)

Junior forward Hailie Mace helped UCLA take down Virginia 2-1 to advance to the NCAA quarterfinal. (Edward Figueroa/Daily Bruin)

Unfortunately though, the season ended in the elite eight, as the hard fought Tigers couldn’t withstand a barrage of goals in a 3-1 defeat to #4 ranked UCLA. The Bruins outshoot the Tigers 24-10 and earned a trip the College Cup in Orlando, Florida. It was without a doubt an outstanding season, regardless of the final score at UCLA. The Lady Tigers finished with a Mac Herman trophy semifinalist in senior Vanessa Gregoire, who also joined teammate Abby Givens on the all-region first team. Will the Lady Tigers one-up their 2017 season with a run past the NCAA Elite Eight?

Author: Justin Perna

Fantasy Five - Tips for your Fantasy Premier League team 1/25/18

There are no Premier League fixtures this weekend because of the FA Cup 4th round – but fear not! The league returns on Tuesday and Wednesday next week with a full round of fixtures including a clash at Wembley between Tottenham and Manchester United which could have major implications for the Champions League places. Given the potential for injuries and cards in the weekend cup games you’ll need to double check your fantasy squad’s availability before finalising your team, but with that one caveat in mind, here are five top picks for your FPL selection next 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. Cesar Azpilicueta (CHE, £7.0): Chelsea’s defensive impenetrability continued last weekend, with their 4-0 rout of Brighton marking their sixth clean sheet in seven league games. With a home game against Bournemouth up next, any of their starting defenders are therefore a solid choice – but we’ve gone with Azpilicueta, who was exceptional in the reverse fixture between these two teams in October and picked up 2 bonus points in the process. Bournemouth haven’t scored a single away goal against any of the league’s “Big 6” so far this season, and that record will likely continue on Wednesday.
  2. James Tomkins (CRY, £4.4): We know, we know, Palace were horrendous defensively against Arsenal last week, but hear us out: before that game they had only conceded once in three matches, including the memorable goalless draw with Man City. Roy Hodgson will have been drilling his defence relentlessly since last week’s embarrassment, and their opponents on Tuesday are a West Ham side who will almost certainly be without both Lanzini and Arnautovic, who are injured. Having netted against Arsenal over Christmas, Tomkins’ attacking threat edges him ahead of the rest in the Eagles back line, and as an added bonus he’s ridiculously cheap at £4.4.
  3. Riyadh Mahrez (LEI, £8.7): Leicester visit an Everton side on Wednesday that has failed to win its last three home games, while the Foxes themselves have two wins and a draw so far in 2018. A major reason for that surge in form is Mahrez, who has averaged over 8 points in those three games. The Algerian already has 10 assists this season, one of which came against Everton when the two teams last met in the autumn. He also has 8 league goals, and is showing the kind of attacking menace that helped guide his team to the league title in 2016.
  4. Alexis Sanchez (MUN, £11.7): This just feels like it’s written in the stars: Arsenal’s best player of the past four years has his league debut for his new team against Spurs. Granted, the Chilean superstar has had a quiet season so far at Arsenal, but expect him to be rejuvenated and with a point to prove under the Wembley arch on Wednesday evening. Obviously this pick is a risk because it’s entirely possible that he won’t immediately find a way to integrate smoothly into his new surroundings, but if things click quickly then there could be big trouble for Pochettino’s men.
  5. Jordan Ayew (SWA, £5.1): Swansea might still be bottom of the league but they are on a high after that win over Liverpool on Monday, and next they have another chance to produce an upset in front of their home fans when Arsenal visit. Ayew has been scoring once every two games since Christmas, comfortably putting him in the top ten strikers in the league’s form chart, and he’s produced the best points return of any attacker this season under £7.0, yet only 7% of players have him in their squads.

Author: Dave Bradshaw

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European Soccer Weekend Recap by the Numbers – 1/22/2018

Last weekend wasn’t a quiet one in European soccer—when is it ever? Lyon inflicted PSG’s third loss of the season through Memphis Depay’s 90th minute wonder-strike in a 2-1 win. Spanish giants Valencia fell to relegation-threatened Las Palmas 2-1. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez shined again in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Real Betis. Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal did the unpredictable, scoring a goal and racking two assists in 34 minutes. But none of these stories were the most talked about.

Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show and it wasn’t because of his brace against Deportivo De La Coruna in Real Madrid’s 7-1 win. Ronaldo borrowed a doctor’s phone to check his bloody facial injury as he was walking off the pitch. Sports fans and media persons weren’t shy in sharing their opinions on that.

Below are the top stories from the weekend, in numbers:

10. Some pay over $100 for Eden Hazard’s jersey. Well, the Chelsea forward gave his number 10 jersey to a boy who just held a sign written “Hazard 10 can I please have your shirt?” after his side’s 4-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. The Belgian was instrumental in the Blues’ victory, scoring a double. Willian and Victor Moses were also on target, netting a goal each. 

9. Arsenal left back Nacho Monreal didn’t need 90 minutes to put up one of the best performances of the weekend in England in a 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace. All he needed was 34 minutes. Monreal scored a goal and set up two before getting subbed out due to a minor injury shortly after the half hour mark. It was also a memorable day for the Gunners’ number 9 Alexandre Lacazette as well. Lacazette’s 22nd minute goal was the 500th Premier League Arsenal goal scored by a Frenchman.

8. Lyon broke PSG’s 8 game winning run with a 2-1 victory. OL closed their gap to 8 points below Paris with this win. Lyon’s number eighteen Nabil Fekir was the most influential player, scoring the opener with a magnificent free kick in the second minute and assisting Memphis Depay’s 90th minute winner. Neymar missed the encounter as he was nursing a thigh injury. Kylian Mbappe was stretchered off the field in the 36th minute after colliding with Lyon’s keeper Anthony Lopes—club doctor Eric Rolland later revealed that “there is nothing serious.” Paris played most of the second half down a man as Dani Alves was red carded in the 57th minute for talking to the referee.

7. Real Madrid cruised past Deportivo de la Coruna 7-1. It was Madrid’s seventeenth win over Deportivo. Los Blancos number 7 Cristiano Ronaldo netted twice. The Portuguese was kicked in the face while scoring his second goal. Ronaldo borrowed a club medical staff’s phone to check his bloody face and angrily shook his head. The forward then walked off the pitch and went down the tunnel, leaving Madrid playing down a man for the last four minutes plus added time. In-form Gareth Bale bagged a brace in the encounter as well, so did Nacho Fernandez. Luka Modric found the net once to complete Zinedine Zidane’s men 7-goal summary.

6. Bayern Munich won their 6th consecutive league-game and is now sixteen points clear on top of the Bundesliga. The German juggernaut’s 6th straight domestic victory was an entertaining 4-2 win over Werder Bremen, in which Thomas Mueller scored two goals and provided one assist, Robert Lewandowski netted a double also and James Rodriguez tallied  two assists.

5. Manchester United hasn’t conceded a goal in 5 matches. The December 5th baby Anthony Martial scored the lone goal in Manchester’s 1-0 win over Burnley on Saturday. Martial scored in his last three PL appearances. United center back Chris Smalling said the Frenchman is just one letter away from the number five, “He’s on fire at the minute.”

4. Owning only fourteen La Liga points, Las Palmas defeated a side that notched 40 points, Valencia. It was Las Palmas 4th league win and Los Che’s 4th domestic loss. Who would’ve thought? Last time the two clubs met this month, Valencia blew past the Canary Island based club 4-0. But on Saturday the scoreline was 2-1 in favor of Las Palmas. Valencia had two players sent off Gabriel Paulista (52nd minute) and Ruben Vezo (87th minute).

3. Sergio Aguero scored 3 goals to inspire Manchester City to a 3-1 win over Newcastle United on Saturday. City head coach Pep Guardiola is beyond proud of Aguero. “Sergio has his talent -- before the first goal, he didn't touch the ball, first touch goal. It's a special gift -- there are no words to describe how good he is in that position,” Guardiola said. “We need him, we need a guy to score the goals we're so happy for him.”

2. After falling to Espanyol in midweek, Barcelona avoided 2 straight losses by overpowering Real Betis. Suarez recorded 2 goals and 2 assists. The former Liverpool player’s 2nd goal pushed him to 100 total La Liga goals. He’s now the 2nd Uruguayan to reach this milestone after Diego Forlan. Messi, too, scored twice and also had one assist. The Argentine now leads La Liga in 2 categories; goals (19) and assists (9).

1. Inter Milan and Roma drew 1-1 in a massive Serie A fixture in Milan. Roma was the 1st team on board as their number 1 Alisson Becker—yes, the keeper—sent Stephan El Shaarawy on goal with an inch-perfect long ball about half an hour into the game before Inter’s number 11 Matias Vecino scored the equalizer for them late in the second period with a header.

Author: Onz Chery