It was an unfair and disappointing ending to the USMNT's 2014 this week against Ireland. The result wasn't unfair; Ireland's Goalkeeper, Shay Given put on a keeping clinic, especially during the second half and the so called Irish "B Team" looked like sharks at a feeding frenzy against an American side that was sloppy to say the very least. Consistent performers from the past few years like Geoff Cameron looked silly turning the ball over often and American keeper, Bill Hamid struggled after an amazing MLS Season with DC United. The 4-1 result wasn't unfair, but it's unfair that a season that made leaps and bound or so it felt, ended in such an ugly way.
I am still not sold on Klinsmann. There were times when I thought I was on board during the World Cup and other times where I feel like we are being scolded by him for being American. I know this isn't a popular opinion, but his constant bashing of the MLS really rubbed me the wrong way as someone who has been a supporter of domestic leagues since I was a kid. Given the fact that he would then turn around and do something like...gee I don't know....adding an NASL prodigy to the squad for a friendly almost made me wonder if his strong opinions against the MLS were just part of some maniacal plan even if I had no clue whatsoever what that plan might actually be.
I still believe the decision to leave Donovan off the World Cup squad was a bad one, we could have used his natural ability and ability to perform in clutch situations in matches like the one against Germany and of course Belgium. However, that said, I did love the team that Klinsmann put together for the reason that it felt like a brand new start for a country that is slowly starting to grow up in the world of soccer. I loved Klinsmann's cheeky attitude throughout the tournament and the fact that at times it seemed he started to turn a little more Red, White and Blue than he was before the tournament when he famously said "we can't win the World Cup".
The game against Ghana felt like a dark cloud had been lifted. I remember being in traffic headed down to Seattle for a viewing party when I heard Ian Darke blare over my iPhone that Dempsey had scored just seconds into the match. I then remember the crash back to reality when Ghana tied the match, but that only made Brooks' goal and his reaction of disbelief even more goosebump inducing. Remembering it right now is bringing the goosebumps back all over again.
Even though we didn't win another game in the tournament after that, I still felt like the matches against Portugal, Germany and Belgium still had so many positives. We hung in there with teams that made up the "Group of Death" and then we advanced. Nobody really believed we could and then we did. Crowds came out in the masses for each match and for those couple months in the summer, soccer was American.
After the World Cup, came the match against Slovenia during a somewhat tumultuous time for the opposing team. Klinsmann sent a bunch of youngsters and most everyone - including myself - felt like it was a disaster waiting to happen. To my surprise, it was actually one of the more exciting matches I had seen the USA play. Not because we particularly dominated, but because we beat a European team somewhat on the rise on European soil and our group of kids played a spirited match without most of the veterans. That match was a perfect companion to the World Cup in my opinion, because it started to solidify my belief in Klinsmann and that maybe there was a method to his madness.
Then came the match against Ecuador, the final game for the USA's all time leading goal scorer, Landon Donovan. Klinsmann and Donovan put disagreements aside so that arguably the best American soccer player that we have seen got to have his last dance in Red, White and Blue. It was one of the few times that we saw some emotion out of the often dry Donovan and although the game ended in a 1-1 draw, it was an exciting one all things considered and I continued to believe that the USA was headed in the right direction.
After that, I felt like a bit of the negativity that was going around pre-World Cup started to creep back in as Klinsmann once again belittled the MLS and evoked a strong reaction from MLS Commissioner, Don Garber. Again, I know this isn't a popular opinion, but I fully supported Garber's reaction and if you would like to know why, there are a few posts from me that I wrote earlier in the year that explain why I feel the USA needs to do soccer our way. The promotion/relegation reared it's terribly ugly head again, talk of doing away with the salary cap did as well and personally it grew tiring for me.
I am not saying that negativity was the reason that the final two games of the season turned out the way they did. A lot of that has to do with trying out new players and also respecting the MLS Playoffs that are currently happening as well, but I do feel like the results combined with Klinsmann constantly reminding us of his opinions on domestic soccer in the USA ended 2014 in an unfair and disappointing way.
Believe it or not, I am an optimist and I am just as excited as anyone about the Gold Cup this year. I guess what it all boils down to is that I feel like a large amount of steam that we had built up for the sport in this country did dwindle out as the year ended and in some ways we are back at square one or at least back to pre-World Cup. Maybe that was inevitable, I don't know, time will only tell.
On the bright side, we have a lot of fun young players to watch in 2015 including DeAndre Yedlin and Mix Diskerud and if we can have a good showing in the Gold Cup, I have faith that momentum will build once again. I just hope that we can keep it going next year.
No matter what, as always I Believe That We Will Win.
Here's to more memories in 2015.
Another Premier League week has passed and another one is on the horizon. I have to say...I am a little proud of myself, after last week's predictions turning out ok, having another awesome week has me just a little cocky. Let's review...
So the only pick I had wrong...by a little bit. Burnley finally got their first win of the season against Hull City. Now I had a 1-1 draw in a match where Burnley would lead most of the way. Turns out Hull City didn't have it in them to tie the game late and Burnley was able to win the match 1-0 much to the excitement of their fans who have been waiting three months for a victory.
As for Liverpool and Chelsea. Well I didn't give Liverpool quite enough credit, but I was pretty close. I had Chelsea winning 2-0, while the actual result ended up 2-1 in Chelsea's favor. All in all...not bad.
Now the match I am particularly proud of is OBVIOUSLY Swansea City and Arsenal. I pretty much called this one perfectly as the Welsh side continues to grit out an exciting 2014-15 season so far. My prediction was that Swansea would just do enough at home to beat Arsenal 2-1 and sure enough...that's what they did. A big thank you to Swansea for making me look awesome.
Enough of my gloating though, time to move on. Everton continued to struggle this week and only managed a draw against a Sunderland side who has been the punching bag of the Premier League for what seems like an eternity, Southampton nabbed another three points against Leicester City to stay in second place behind Chelsea, Man City also under-performed against a weak QPR side (albeit a weak side that has shown life recently) with a 2-2 draw, and in an unlikely twist Manchester United performed as they should have (kind of) against another bottom of the table team, Crystal Palace and managed a 1-0 win.
In all honesty, besides Liverpool/Chelsea and Swansea City/Arsenal, the week was made up mostly of fixtures that should have been lopsided, but instead made the supposed better team look ordinary or worse. Chelsea and Southampton are benefiting in a huge way from matches like that this year, as they continue to pad their points totals at the top of the table.
The biggest upset of last week was probably Stoke City beating Tottenham. However with Tottenham's struggles being....well......real........I highly doubt that there weren't a fair amount of people who might have seen this one coming. Stoke is another one of those sides who can look stellar against a good side one week and then look like a third division team the next. Tottenham's blah season so far may bode well for USMNT youngster, DeAndre Yedlin as the team could definitely use a spark. Obviously I am skeptical of how much time he'll actually see on the pitch, as the Premier League/American Player track record isn't a great one (just ask Jozy), but Tottenham's lackadaisical play can't hurt Yedlin's cause when he starts playing across the pond next year (or at least that's when we are told to expect seeing him dawn a Spurs kit)
Alright so time for my matches of the week...and remember, if you think you have the brains to beat the blogger....you better comment below with your predictions. Especially given my recent form which - dare I say - is en fuego. Knock me down a few pegs.......I dare you. You have some extra time with the bye week, so think it over and do it.
Stoke City v. Burnley
Both of the team's are coming off of wins....whoa wait......back that up.......that can't be.......no really! Both of these teams are coming off of wins and both would obviously like to get on a bit of a streak. All signs point toward Stoke City beating Burnley, but as I stated earlier, Stoke City tends to play to the level of their opponent and for that reason, I am calling this a dr.......ahhh I can't do it, I just switched mid typing, something came over me and I saw Stoke City winning 2-0, so yeah my prediction is (after divine intervention?): Stoke City 2 - 0 Burnley
Manchester City v. Swansea City
Swansea City is coming off of a big win against the Gunners, while Man City has to be disappointed with their 2-2 draw with QPR. The Swansea swagger we've seen this year should still be alive and well against Man City, but you'd have to think a little bit of it will be missing as the Welsh side will be on the road for this match. I still love this Swansea team and I feel like Man City is still suffering from a championship hangover just a bit...yeah even three months in. I don't think Swansea will come out of this one with all three points, but I do believe they will nab one. My prediction: Man City 2 - 2 Swansea City.
Manchester United v. Arsenal
The Gunners can't be happy with their last match against Swansea, but on the other hand, at least both sides were equally matched when it comes to the standings so far this season. Manchester United managed their fourth win of the season, but it was a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace and....yeah that's about all I have to say for that one.
I think Arsenal will bounce back from their loss with a good match and see them leading this one wire to wire. The Red Devils will get a goal back late to make the scoreline better, but it won't be enough to manage a result. My prediction: Manchester United 1 - 2 Arsenal.
So to recap, I have Stoke City beating Burnley 2-0, Man City and Arsenal will finish tied at 2, and Arsenal will manage a win against Man U 2-1.
Time to Beat the Blogger! Comment below with your predictions.
Well hey, this week wasn't so bad for me, mind you my featured matches were a little easier to predict, so I won't pat myself on the back...at least not while you're looking.
The only real upset this past weekend was Newcastle's win over Liverpool. In fact the 1-0 was the same as the score in the Liverpool/Real Madrid Champion's League match in which Liverpool sported a "disrespectful" starting lineup. So yeah, there you have it...Newcastle is as good as Real Madrid.....or something like that.
The "Big 3" continue to pad their point totals even though their wins weren't as convincing as expected and both Merseyside teams who carried high hopes into the start of this season still find themselves with Manchester United and Tottenham sandwiched between the likes of Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion.
Another story as of late is Robin Van Persie's sluggish form. I even joked on twitter that the flying header during the World Cup must have taken more out of him than we realized as it was the last real highlight we saw from the Dutchman. I mean talk about the injury time equalizer against Chelsea all you want, but that was hardly representative of how RVP's season has actually gone so far. It's amazing to me that people will point to Man U's defense as a problem, yet they held their rivals to only one goal and much of that was without Smalling after he was sent off. In a match like that, you wold think stars like RVP, Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria would step up at some point, especially under a manager like Van Gaal. I am not sure if it is too many egos or too much hype over Van Gaal coming into the season, but let's be honest, the guy was supposed to be a savior after the mess that was Moyes, but Van Gaal hasn't been that much of an improvement, if one at all. To me, it is a must that Van Gaal gets his countryman, RVP looking like the RVP of the past.
That all said, it is time for my featured matches of the week. Please do comment below with your predictions to see how you match up with me!
Liverpool v. Cheslea
Liverpool will definitely want to forget their match against Newcastle and move on as soon as they can, but with Chelsea being their next opponent, that will be a daunting task. Liverpool has been mediocre at best in my opinion so far this season and the signing of Balotelli hasn't helped at all, in fact his antics just seem to make things even worse. Chelsea on the other hand has been brilliant, besides their draw with Manchester United and I look for them to have a solid win against Liverpool. My prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool
Burnley v. Hull City
Here is a fun one between two teams that seem to have an allergy toward winning. While Hull City has banked three points twice this season, Burnley is still looking for their first win. I do believe that Burnley's never give up attitude will prove to be fruitful one day, but I don't believe it will be this match. Burnley will have the lead going into the dying minutes of the match when Hull City breaks their hearts and leaves them still without a win. My prediction: Burnley 1-1 Hull City
Swansea City v. Arsenal
This should be the match of the week in my opinion. The Gunners will travel to Liberty Stadium for the match that could springboard Swansea into the top five. Although it's obvious that Arsenal has the better team on paper, I am actually going to go a little out on a limb for this one and call a Swansea City win at home. My prediction: Swansea 2-1 Arsenal
So to recap, I have Chelsea beating Liverpool 2-0, Burnley drawing with Hull City 1-1 and Swansea squeaking out a win against the Gunners 2-1 at home. Time for you to comment with your predictions!
I have been watching and playing this sport since I was a child and so I should know better than to try and predict scores, as I am abysmal to say the least. However, maybe it's the masochist in me that loves to subject myself to the potential of looking like a complete noob who hasn't watched a soccer match since the 1994 World Cup.
Moving on though. One of our readers who commented on last week's blog post did resoundingly well with their predictions. "Ferg" called the draw between Chelsea FC and Manchester United (only was off by a goal on each side), nailed the Everton/Burnley match and was only off by a goal for the Leicester/Swansea match. So with all that said, I tip my figurative cap to you Ferg on a job very well done.
10 weeks in and the Premier League still has an uneasy feeling to it. Chelsea has seemed like an unstoppable force as of late, while Man U floundered about near the bottom of the table, yet the match didn't really reflect that at all. I am not sure if the Red Devils are finally getting things figured out or if the Blues are plateauing after a red hot start.
Perhaps the most interesting story as of late though has been Southampton. They currently sit just four points behind Chelsea in second place and honestly their wins have looked pretty good. We're not talking about a team who has had a few luck bounces and squeaked out a couple crazy wins, Southampton actually looks like a team that belongs near the top of the table. Mind you, their two losses have come against Liverpool and Tottenham, which may suggest they have had a soft schedule to start out, but their win against Arsenal is still a standout match.
Then of course you had that Monday match....a match that I would think had Aston Villa fans salivating given their rough go lately. Finding someone who believed the one win Queens Park Rangers could pull out a victory against Aston Villa would be about as impossible as a Fernando Torres open net attempt, but hey....that's why we play each match right? QPR did manage to get their second win against Villa (which makes this USA soccer fan feel really bad for Brad Guzan) and yes there were reports from hell of snowballs knocking the devil unconscious for a period of time. What.A.Week.
So now that I have recapped last week, why not do a little pick em' once again this week? Sound good? Hopefully this week I will fair a little better, but if Ferg participates again, I highly doubt that. So here goes nothing.
Match #1: Everton v. Swansea City
Everton and Swansea City are both coming off of wins against teams that they were expected to beat for the most part. Both sides fared very well against their recently promoted counterparts and are looking to continue with the good vibes this week.
Obviously Everton has Tim Howard between the pipes which is almost always an advantage, but where Everton has underachieved so far this season, Swansea has overachieved and could very well provide an upset against Everton, if you can even call it that.
However, since I am boring and a coward, I predict that Swansea will be en route to a 2-1 win when Everton scores a stoppage time goal to tie the match up 2-2.
Match #2: Arsenal v. Burnley
So many Arsenal fans out there that I decided to include this match this week even though it should be a walk in the park for The Arsenal. Although Burnley never seems to give up and I give them a ton of credit for pushing the attack often this season, it's no secret that the team has a little ways to go before becoming relevant in the Premier League.
Obviously it's easy to pick a winner here, but the score could be a little harder. I don't expect a Germany/Brazil style blowout, but I do expect a buzz-saw nonetheless. I predict a 4-0 win for the Gunners.
Match #3: Manchester United v. Manchester City
How could I not include the Manchester Derby right? The reigning champs have been hanging out in familiar territory near the top, only behind Chelsea and Southampton, while the Red Devils have been slowly clawing their way up the table, now finding themselves in eighth place after last week's draw against Chelsea.
The best part about a rivalry match is that you can basically throw any sort of statistics out the window. Although Citeh should be favored to win this match, nothing is certain when so much pride is on the line.
I do feel that Man City will pull out a win though come Sunday and although I believe it will be late, it will be a decisive one. Man City beat Man U 3-1.
So to recap...I have Everton and Swansea City drawing 2-2, Arsenal beating Burnley 4-0 and Citeh winning the Manchester Derby 3-1 over the Red Devils. Now it's time for you to give me your predictions in the comment section!
Alright so this week we're going to try a little something different. I am going to list my Top Three Premier League matches of the week and give you my predictions on all three. My challenge for you is to comment with your score predictions and at the end of the weekend/Monday, we will see just how smart you all are and how dumb I am. Sound like fun? Well it would be a lot more fun if you all would participate, so let's get crackin'.
Swansea City vs. Leicester City
Off-season daydreams suddenly became early season hopes when Swansea City came out swinging over the first few weeks of this Premier League season. Recent stumbles however have brought the Welsh side back down to earth as of late as the team currently holds a 3-2-3 record.
Leicester City on the other hand has performed just a tad bit above what many would expect from a newly promoted team. The Foxes have had some hard fought battles so far, many of which were against very strong opposition. Their 2-3-3 record isn't anything to write home about, but it isn't anything to be ashamed of either.
Given the fact this match will be played at Liberty Stadium in Swansea, most of the week I have been leaning toward Swansea winning, but as I continue to study (and more than likely over think) each of their records so far, I am going to predict that this one ends in a 2-2 Draw.
Burnley vs. Everton
The newly promoted Burnley side is still without a win in Premier League play this season, but don't let that statistic fool you. The Clarets only surrendered one goal over four games after their opening week 3-1 loss to Chelsea FC and one of those matches was against Manchester United. However, on the other side, Burnley hasn't exactly been an offensive powerhouse, only scoring multiple goals in one match this season so far (two against Leicester City).
Everton is straight off of a dominating win over Aston Villa and you could only imagine they are ready to keep the train rolling after a somewhat lackluster start to their 2014-2015 season. Tim Howard looked like he was in top form against his countryman, Brad Guzan and we all know what happens when Howard gets on a roll.
This one has all the potential for a blowout, but I am still not convinced that Everton has a consistent enough attack to put up a ton of goals. My prediction for this one is a 1-0 win for Everton.
Manchester United vs. Chelsea
Normally this would be a battle of heavyweights and there is still that chance it will be. However, with Chelsea's dominance so far this season and a Man U start that had some dreaming of better days with Moyes (ok maybe that's a stretch), it hardly looks like much of a match at all on paper.
That said, I am not convinced this won't be an entertaining match. The Red Devils have looked better as of late....well I mean relatively and given the storied past of these two taking on each other, that rivalry element is always going to be hanging over both sides which means you can all, but throw statistics out the window.
With the way guys like Diego Costa have been playing, I still believe Chelsea is the far better team here, but I will go as far as to predict that Manchester United will get on the board first. After that Chelsea will settle in and break the hearts of Man U fans eventually winning by a score of 3-1.
So to recap, I have Swansea and Leicester drawing 2-2, Everton beating Burnley, 1-0 and Chelsea coming back to claim victory over Man U 3-1. Now it's time for you to give me your predictions and we shall see who comes out on top.
Last week I concentrated on who should be the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and following in line with end of the season awards, I choose to focus on the newbies to the MLS this season this week.
As the MLS continues to grow, it is fun watching players like DeAndre Yedlin and Bradley Wright-Phillips take off and this year was no exception. With that said, I bring to you my 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year nominee.
Patrick Mullins : New England Revolution
The 22 year old New Orleans native has made a name for himself in his first year playing in the MLS helping add depth to a once struggling New England Revolution side. The Revs are back in the playoffs for the second season in a row and this year was no fluke. The first round draft pick has found the back of the net four times in 19 caps and consistently been a threat with 16 shots on goal. It's safe to say with guys like Mullins around, the Revs will continue to be MLS Cup contenders for years to come.
Harry Shipp : Chicago Fire
Following down the same path as players like DeAndre Yedlin, Harry Shipp signed with the Chicago Fire as a homegrown player in 2014. The Illinois native has easily been the silver lining to the otherwise gloomy cloud that has been Chicago Fire's 2014 season. His six goals and six assists over 31 caps shows a level of maturity that you don't always find in rookies. Mix that with a high level of discipline (only nine fouls committed and no cards) and you definitely have the makings of a future star.
It's exciting to imagine what the young midfielder could have done if he was surrounded by a better team, but on the other hand, the lack of talent in Chicago has also given Shipp more of a chance to shine. I definitely can't wait to see what is in store for Shipp next season.
Tesho Akindele : FC Dallas
Leading rookies most of the year in goals, Tesho Akindele was the early favorite to take Rookie of the Year honors with just about everyone. FC Dallas has had a streaky season, much like every FC Dallas season, but one thing that has remained constant is Akindele's poise as a forward whether he starts the game or comes off of the bench.
The Calgary, Alberta native who was drafted sixth overall has managed to tickle the twine seven times this season while assisting on three goals as well. There is no doubt the youngster has given Big D hope and now will have a chance to help his squad to an MLS Cup after clinching a berth this month.
So who is my pick for Rookie of the Year? For me it is Harry Shipp, he has shown a ton of maturity on the pitch all season and I really do believe he has the brightest future out of the three. He's a hard working midfielder who makes great choices that keep him out of referee's book and what is not to love about that?
As we near the end of the regular season for the MLS, I decided to give my opinions on some of the end of the season awards starting with Goalkeeper of the Year. Obviously there are still a few weeks left in the season, so I am going off of what has happened so far. It's been quite the season, especially for those who play between the pipes. Let's see who did the best with the world on their shoulders.
Jaime Penedo: LA Galaxy
The Galaxy almost always put out a stellar team, so one may think that the goalkeeping job in the City of Angels would be a little easier compared to most other teams. When it all comes down to it though, the Panamanian born keep still has to have a lot of pressure on him playing for a team that could very well be referred to as an MLS Dynasty.
Penedo has proven to be an exceptional athlete and I can recall numerous times that I watched him bail out his defense, including a couple in person. He's only let in 27 goals over 26 starts and made 77 saves. Now don't get me wrong, I know that 77 saves does point toward having a pretty solid back line in front of you, but at the end of the day, I have a lot of faith in this keeper's abilities.
Bill Hamid: D.C. United
Besides the Portland Timbers last season, it's hard to remember a bigger zero to hero story than D.C. United has been this season and Bill Hamid deserves a large slice of the credit for that.
The 24 year old American (who in my opinion will start for the USMNT in the not so distant future) has repeatedly bailed his team out this season and been one of the key components in taking the team from last place in the MLS last season to having a shot at first place this season. Hamid has allowed 31 goals in 27 starts and made an astounding 102 saves, many of which were highlight reel caliber. At only 24 years old, it's incredible to think of how good he will be as he gets older.
Steve Clark: Columbus Crew
When you are naming off some of the best goalkeepers in the MLS, it's not that often that you'd hear the name "Steve Clark" come up during the conversation. However, after Clark's 2014 season with the Columbus Crew, it very well should.
The 28 year old Wisconsin native has made a handful of standout saves including several that were nominated for "Goal of the Week" honors. Just to top it off, he's also batting .500 when it comes to penalty kicks, saving two of the four he's faced this year. He's let in 38 goals over 31 starts and made a whopping 98 saves. Although the Crew haven't exactly been dominant, Clark's heroics currently have them gunning for a final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Something tells me, the name "Steve Clark" will be coming up in conversation a lot more in the future.
So who is my pick for Goalkeeper of the Year out of these three? Honestly all of them are deserving of the title for one reason or the other, but when it all comes down to it, I have to give it to the guy who has done the most with the least surrounding him and that is definitely Steve Clark. Not only is he solid, he's also flat out fun to watch.....unless your team is playing him.