@bollard: I wouldn't be so harsh but yeah, everybody knows he's there for winning the Champions League and that is the real test, nothing else would really matter. Altough i disagree with the assumption that La Liga is not very competitive: while the fight at the top is certainly at the most competitive in the EPL since it's a 6 teams race instead of just 3, the rest of the spanish league is quite strong.
Six is being generous for the Premier League. You'll get six big spenders in the summer but, in terms of actual candidates for the title, you'll have about three. Also, this summer confirmed the worst to me: It's not a spending bubble and never has been. The Premier League is the NFL or NBA. It's a brand, a showcase and it's also a circus.
I don't think either of Neymar's big money moves are entirely above board, either.
The NASL is in critical condition right now, as the USSF appears to want to replace its tier-2 status with the formerly tier-3 USL. Coincidentally, the USL is where the tier-1 MLS has been forming partnerships and feeder teams while the NASL has been skipped over for the past few years. Aside from lack of pro/rel hindering growth in the NASL, they can't seem to decide whether they want to become their own pro league in big markets or to reach smaller markets that the MLS wouldn't touch. Either way, it sucks for Miami FC and the New York Cosmos, as well as the rest who have to decide whether to play in MLS game or close up shop.
@shindig: in the sense that they are the top of the US soccer pyramid and the only "Tier 1" league around, yes. A slightly-more recent development has seen their fucking with the rest of the pyramid, turning USL into largely a pseudo-farm system for them (there are restrictions as to how many players an MLS team can send down/call up but that's the short version) and leapfrogging over the NASL. NASL tried to compete and has a couple teams I'd call pro quality but they got the short end of the stick combined with overly-ambitious management.
So in short, yes.
The one good thing that might emerge from this is that a court case could force the USSF to enact a promotion/relegation system, but that's a longshot from NASL to keep themselves alive, and I'm not too bullish on their chances. Still, it's a chance.
Yeah, there's three professional leagues in the MLS, NASL and USL. There's a lot of teams there before you even count the developmental guys. It could be better organised into a promotion / relegation setup, although the gulf in class would start to show, probably. I dunno, I keep wrongly applying European standards to a sport that's still in relative infancy and still expanding in the US.
The USMNT is so goddamned lackluster right now. The last two games were completely embarrassing, although the officiating in the Honduras game was equally so. Honduras visibly employed stalling tactics for the entire second half of the game with fake injuries, glacial substitutions, etc. (I don't blame them, BTW.) There legitimately should have been about 12 minutes of stoppage time, and I'm not exaggerating. There were 3 given, and the final whistle blew at 2. Pathetic, although that is also true of the USMNT effort and the game never should have been in doubt in the first place. That we're in a must-win situation to potentially barely qualify out of fucking CONCACAF is pitiful. Alexi Lalas ripped the team in a pretty epic rant that I can't say that I disagreed with one bit. Here's hoping for a redemptive October.
The USMNT is so goddamned lackluster right now.
Yep, turns out Lalas was prophetic. The USMNT crashed out of WC qualifiers to Trinidad and Tobago, who were already eliminated at this point. Unfortunately Christian Pulisic can't clone himself 10 times.
U.S. Soccer died last night. I....I don't even have the words, but I'll try. It is all-too-fitting that this game to decide the World Cup Qualification was "shown" on a network few even have, played on a pitch worse then what I played on in Middle School, and in front of fewer fans than I played in front of in High School. It's hard to argue that it deserved any better. Everyone involved with USMNT not named Christian Pulisic needs to go, and I'm dead serious. Build a new program around him with young talents that can develop together. Whatever growing pains happen with that can't possibly be more underwhelming than this.
This is beyond embarrassing. We're a joke, and there are no excuses. It's CONCACAF, for fuck's sake. I don't really want to trivialize some of the CONCACAF teams who have improved their programs or act like the USMNT is somehow entitled to go the World Cup (clearly not), but there's no denying that it's a pretty low bar to clear and we couldn't fucking do it. Utterly pathetic. I heard a comment a while back that the MLS has improved other teams in CONCACAF while not doing much of anything for the USMNT, and that's sadly proving true. There are good players in MLS, but translating that to the national team just isn't fucking happening. Nor is developing young talents (outside of Pulisic) that are capable of playing at a high level. It's failure from the top all the way down.
The one good thing here is that it's a chance to wipe the slate clean and make meaningful changes. It's time to start answering the questions everyone hasn't wanted to ask. How is the defending so consistently poor? Why has the US Soccer Development League produced only one player worth a shit in a decade? Why are we not capitalizing on MLS talent in ways opponents are? Why can we not attract top-tier talent from around the world? This is fucking America. I could probably field a better team entirely from Cuban defectors who would be more than happy to come live here and get paid 6-7 figures, who damn sure would appreciate the opportunity and wouldn't mail it in on the field the way we just did.
In no way did this team deserve to go to the World Cup, and now they won't. It's clear that Klinsmann wasn't the problem, and that Arena sure as fuck isn't the answer. Our issues go waaaaaayyyy beyond a coach, or a player, or this team itself. There are fundamental flaws in the entire process. American football has long been the dominant sport here, but you're telling me that with all of the concussion developments, erosion of collegiate academics in D-1 football, and political b.s at the professional level, that we can't convince promising young athletes to start taking up soccer instead? Bullshit. This is a fucking layup. There is an opportunity for soccer to take a major leap forward here, but it takes an improved commitment at the youth level all the way up. That's the response to this embarrassment that should happen here, but realistically, the sport will probably just become more of an afterthought here.
We don't get to complain about something we're not willing to make better. Coaches and players whining about field conditions and fucking rain as they lose? Get the fuck off of the team. No more horseshit excuses. In a must-win game, losing in any conditions to a program with a budget, talent pool, fanbase, etc. that are all comparatively infinitesimal should never happen. Ever. I've heard some "but.....but Mexico and Costa Rica didn't help us, but...but that Panama goal wasn't a goal" garbage, and that infuriates me more than anything. We shouldn't have been in a must-win situation in the first fucking place, and trying to deflect blame onto teams, refs, et al. for not helping us backdoor into a spot we absolutely didn't earn is just crap.
The current state of the U.S. in general is admittedly not great, but putting on that uniform is still a fucking privilege among privileges. That this team couldn't muster up the will to represent their country by displaying a bare minimum level of competence to the world is beyond shameful. They are soft and spoiled, and just helped send a worldwide message that we, by extension, are much the same. Not trying to overstate the impact here, but everyone's laughing at us, and they deserve to. We are sub-Panama; a country that we once literally dug a giant motherfucking hole through. This should be a massive wake-up call to America, in the soccer world and beyond.
At least you've got Timothy Weah. His dad's one run-off away from becoming President. Also, stop me if you've heard this one before:
Mike Ashley puts Newcastle United up for sale. £180m. Quite a change of heart given his "I'm staying for a while yet." stance in August. Almost as if there's some legal issues around the corner he may need to avoid or fund. £50m less than the valuation he gave in 2009 when he previously put the club up for sale.
German squad looks all right - we still have a lack of solid full backs as well as strikers but that was true going into the 2014 WC as well.
Mostly annoyed at this stage by mass media reports which paint a picture that only Germany invested heavily in their youth performance centers - completely dismissing the fact that England Spain or France have bare minimum as many highly talented young players than we do.
Same reports of course are surprised in case we don't win the WC again (as it doesn't suit their narrative) - I could live with people not following football outside of WCs to get that impression but boy for someone who makes money writing about football (and football only) it's crazy how little knowledge beyond surface level some of those guys have.
DC United just barely avoided the Wooden Spoon this year due to the LA Galaxy having one less win, which means they'll get the third position in the SUPERDRAFT (first goes to LAFC for being an expansion team next year). We can't even tank properly and the star CB (Steve Birnbaum) might be braindead after taking at least three serious blows to the head throughout the season. At least in the worst-ever 2013 season they managed to scrape together enough talent for the US Open Cup, we couldn't even get that this year (though DC did crush the Cinderella dreams of a local fourth-tier side, so thanks for that, jerks).
Meanwhile, at the national level, why is ESPN (or anyone, really) asking Bruce Arena for his opinions on US soccer? Why have Arena and Sunil Gulati not been tossed to a pack of starving wolves for their colossal fuckup this year, to say nothing of the decisions leading up to it? Why is US Soccer batting around a soccer equivalent of the NCAA's NIT? I know they don't give a shit about American soccer players, but I kinda hoped they'd at least consider investing in a product that people want to watch, instead of just hoping the MLS will do the work for them.
At least with Southgate blooding the youngsters, we might be in for a surprise. I guess when your U17s, U19s and U20s have all had bumper years, you have to capitalise. But ... it's Gareth Southgate. Peru are in, though. Haven't seen them at this stage during my lifetime. Cool.
Maybe. They have to drop points and Liverpool's just doing enough to land results at the moment. That triple-header City have against Spurs might be crucial.
Okay, some actual news: Rafa Benitez has signed with a French agency to manage his affairs for the next few years. This is pointing to a move to France in the summer. Farewell, man. You did us proud. :(
Ajax confirmed the signing of Standard Liege's Răzvan Marin for 12,5 million euro's. That makes him the 3rd most expensive transfer for Ajax. Seems like a good young creative midfielder to me
In the coming weeks it's likely that they'll sign two teens with Eredivisie experience in Scherpen (GK) & Pierie (Central/ left defender). Tagliafico will probably move to Atletico Madrid to become Lucas Hernandez' replacement for +- 25 million euro. That leaves players like De Ligt, Ziyech & Neres to make a move. De Ligt will most likely end up at Barcelona, while Ziyech has been mentioned in relation with Bayern. AC Milan & Everton seem to be the main candidates to take Neres home. Onana & Tadic decided to stay for another year.
As for Ajax' transfer targets, there's a whole list of possibilities. Option 1 has them team up with Barcelona and buy / loan a bunch of their youth & bench players. Players like Todibo, Puig, Collado & Alena have been mentioned in this scenario. Given that Ajax' modus operandi is to develop young technical players & move them on for a large sum of money, i can't see this happening in the form of a loan. A hefty buyback clause or first-buy option for Barca makes more sense.
Option 2 has them going out there in the market and buy players themselves. As Ajax has an unprecedented amount of money to play with this transferwindow, a ton of players get brought up to make the move to Amsterdam. Rogerio from Juventus, Pröpper from Brighton, Türüç from Kayserispor, Danjuma from Brugge, Özyakup from Besiktas, Rochina from Levante, Real's Ødegaard, Boca's Matías Vargas and the everlasting interest in Cristian Pavon. Ødegaard & Pröpper seem like the most likely signings to me, but i do think they'll eventually end up with another argentinian player as well. Pavon's name has been singing around for years, so maybe this will finally be the year that he makes the move to Europe.
They seem to get like 1 or 2 players every 5 years that makes it to their main squad. Thulani Serero played 88 games for them between 2011-2017. This season they brought a 18-yo striker from Burkina Faso to their youth squad in Amsterdam. Players like Steven Pienaar & Benny McCarthy also started at Cape Town.
Figures the one game I get a free ticket to see D.C. United at home is the one where they completely shit themselves. Three goals conceded in under 30 minutes, braindead passing in midfield, Wayne Rooney gets himself red-carded in the second half, 0-4 loss, and I get showered with beer from drunken assholes trying (and failing) to throw them at the other team's players. At least I got to see Bill Hamid stop a PK. That was something.
PSV drew against Vitesse, which means that with 5 games left, Ajax has overtaken them based on a way better goal difference. The relegation battle is heating up as well, with 4 teams being within 4 points of eachother trying to stay outside of the relegation zone.
@shindig: Can't wait. Very sad about Ajax going out. Reaching the final would surelay have been one of the biggest achievements in the last decade. On a par with Leicester winning the premier league.
Spurs reaching the final may be punching slightly above their financial weight, but Ajax doing it would be almost unimaginable given how football has gone in the past decade.
This is the part where I rant about the games being shown on B/R Sport in the States at 2:00 pm on a workday. To make matters worse, the On Demand replay of the match won't let you fast-forward through the pre-game or half-time shows, so you have no choice but to watch Kate Abdo waste her time hosting Stu Holden getting talked over by a couple of tongue-tied hipsters and a what-the-fuck-is-he-doing-here Steve Nash on a show that earlier this year didn't know the difference between Manchester United and City:
Like, honestly. Steve f-ing Nash? I know he's a big Spurs fan, and legitimately has some soccer cred, but good lord. As long as we're going after ex-NBA stars, why not just get Charles Barkley? He'd at least be entertaining.
, because this is Bleacher Report and they're a bunch of useless wastrels, they don't even show the one genuinely good moment on the broadcast where Nash is literally driven to tears when that last goal is scored. They put it out on Twitter instead. You know, for the kids.
(*huffs repeatedly into a paper bag*)
As for the games, I think I might be come-backed out. You could sort of feel the Liverpool one coming. After they got that first early goal with the game being at Anfield to get the crowd going nuts. Once the broadcast showed Barca having that "oh no, it's happening again" look on their face that will be familiar to any Chicago Bears fan watching their team try to kick a field goal, you knew it was pretty much over.
As for the second game, I haven't decided which which would be ultimately be more Spursy - (1) Going out against a punching-above-their-weight Ajax club, (2) Needing a three goal comeback against Ajax or (3) Beating Ajax only to lose the final?
(For the record I'm going with "Losing the final on a Harry Kane own goal in injury time.")
This was the first Premier League season I followed week-to-week. I wanted City to win but It's heartbreaking for Liverpool to play this close to perfection and still not win the league. One of my favorite bits of the post match show on NBC was along the lines of "It's been said no one ever remembers second place. We will this year". This Champions League has been the best I can remember. I'm going to miss taking a late lunch just to watch the last half of whatever weekday match was on. Really pulling for Liverpool in Madrid.
Yeah it would be super sad if Liverpool ended up with empty hands. I do think they'll have the upperhand for the champions league finals.
In other news, Ajax won the league. PSV was good, but their performances got worse after the winterstop. Especially Lozano & the midfield declined.
Brazil looked really good. It could've been embarrassing for Jamaica if it wasn't for Schneider in goal. Newcastle takeover talk has been quietened right down since a new company was set up by the new prospective buyers. I don't know how long these things take but it's agony.
If it doesn't work out, they could always buy Gateshead a mile down the road for a quid. No stadium, no league spot, no players. No future.
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