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.
There is this funny stereotype that American sports fans tend to get labeled with. Many people in the country and especially those outside of the country like to laugh at the fact that us Yanks use the term "We" when referring to a team. I can recall numerous times where I have come back from an MLS game and said "Boy did we play our hearts out" only to be met with the response "we? I didn't see you out in the field". I get it....I am not a professional athlete, but for some reason that opinion has always struck a nerve with me.
I realize this isn't just a soccer thing, it's a sports thing, but I have to admit, I do run into it more with soccer, especially with my European family and friends. It surprises me too, because the culture surrounding football in Europe, as well as other sports like cricket, rugby and such, is ravenous. At the end of the day though, they always seem to separate themselves as fans from the actual team. Who knows? Maybe that is why supporters clubs are such an important part of soccer.
I don't know if it's because people like me had dreams of being a star athlete growing up and it is our way of living vicariously through the athletes who are living out the life we had hoped we would or if it's just the fact that we as a nation starve for an all encompassing feeling of unity, it's just in our DNA. Regardless, I am one of those people who says "we" and I am not ashamed of it and refuse to let anyone tell me why it is ridiculous that I feel that way.
You see the majority of us are aligned with the teams we love from the time we are born. We don't get traded, we don't get transferred and us true fans aren't out there in free agency land looking for the next team to support. We aren't driven by money like the athletes are, in fact we all to often spend more than we should just to show how much we love our team. It is arguable that in the long run we are much more a part of the team than most of the actual athletes will ever be. You may watch your team go through multiple star strikers and a handful of top keepers, but nobody ever replaces you. As a true fan you are there from day one until the end. Sunshine, rain, tears of joy or tears of pain, success and defeat, the one thing that stays constant is you, the fan.
So the next time someone gives you guff when you say "oh my God, we won!" or "man, we played well today!" just remember how much truth is in that small little word, "we". Maybe it's that they have never known what it is like to really be a part of something or maybe they just take things a little to literally, but a world where that sort of pride is deemed ridiculous seems like a really boring world to me.
Show it when you cheer, show it when you chant, show it with your style (obviously we can help with that) and show it without any shame!
Sometimes it can be a little annoying when a soccer “fan” becomes obsessed with what a kit looks like or even worse when they pledge their allegiance to a team simply based on their kit design. However, we also know as a t-shirt company with some awesome designs (shameless plug)….when you look good, you feel good, thus resulting in playing good as well.
So let’s start this week with a league that is heading into its post season and countdown the five best kits in the MLS. Let me know your favorites as well.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps Primary Kits
Green mostly dominates the Northwest, but Vancouver decided to pay tribute to their seaside locale rather than the evergreens that grow along their shores. The Whitecaps have managed to find the perfect balance between keeping up with nostalgia and also remaining modern.
4. Colorado Rapids Primary Kit
When the Rapids added the Colorado state flag to their kits, it really tied everything together. Personally I am a fan of their secondary blue kits as well, but I don’t think many will argue that the Burgundy version stands out in all the right ways. Colorado’s kits represent the beauty of the state and it’s personality to near perfection.
3.Portland Timbers Home Kit
In the Northwest it’s all about which shade of green you rock. The Timbers have been sporting their forest inspired green for years now and the upgraded chainsaw accents really take their kits to the next level. It’s been a bit of a rough go for the Timbers this season, but we know with guys like Valeri on your squad…anything is possible.
2. Seattle Sounders Third Kit (Pitch Black)
After multiple seasons featuring third kits that some fans couldn’t even stomach, the Sounders finally hit it out of the park in 2014 with their Pitch Black Kits. The neon green accents pop right out of the gloomy black kits that are meant to represent the mood of the rainy state. Take a trip to Seattle and you will see almost as many of these kits as you do Seahawks jerseys on a daily basis.
1. Sporting Kansas City Primary Kit
It’s all about the blues in Kansas City, but the Reigning MLS champs have nothing to be sad about. KC’s reinvention could be one of the best in sports, retiring the comical “Wizards” moniker for a much classier update complete with one of the sharpest, cleanest kits in soccer.
Honorable Mention. Sacramento Republic FC (USL PRO)
Sacramento wants an MLS team bad and they have made a great case as to why they should get their way. Their fan base is larger than many MLS teams already and they are currently enjoying a playoff run at the moment as they look for their first USL PRO title. Their ode to the California flag represents the state perfectly and the colors are perfect. Not only are Sacramento putting a quality product out on the pitch, but they look good as well.
Well it’s only been three weeks and we have already reached a break this weekend with the Premier League. The good news is that Manchester United can’t really disappoint anyone; the bad news is that we have a week to wait for more Premier League action.
Now don’t get me wrong, the season is still very young, but even still there have been some interesting storylines popping up and I thought I would list my Top Three so far starting with…..
Number 3: Mario Balotelli Signing With Liverpool FC
Mario Balotelli hasn’t bitten anyone yet, but that hasn’t stopped a large portion of soccer fans from hating him as much as (sometimes more than) the King Biter himself, Luis Suarez. That said, Balotelli does have a large enough group of fans to go along with the “haters” and we all know what he is capable of as a striker, but is the risk worth the reward for a team like Liverpool who is likely a top contender this season?
He’s only been a Red for a few weeks and the convoy of controversy that seems to have a habit of following the Italian international has already caught up to him. It was alleged that Balotelli headbutted a Wolverhampton player this week during a friendly with the Wolves which has brought attention to the striker in all the wrong ways.
Personally, I think signing Balotelli was a terrible idea. Sure he has talent, sure he’ll sell some tickets, but let’s be honest….he becomes the show and nothing good can come out of that. Time can only tell, but at this point, I have little faith in this move.
Number 2: Manchester United FC Winless Against Limited Opposition
It’s funny because in an earlier article I wrote, I think some readers reached the assumption I was a Man U fan who was terribly partial with my predictions. I rarely state my personal favorite teams or my least favorites for that matter, but in this case I will make an exception and state that I am NOT a Manchester United fan, not even in the slightest! I try to have a nonpartisan respect for all teams (even when it’s extremely hard to do so), but personally the only time I talk about the Red Devils is when I am giving my friends who are fans a hard time about them.
So with that all said, back to being nonpartisan/professional. I was drinking the offseason Kool-Aid, I won’t lie. I figured Van Gaal would right a ship that Moyes ran into an iceberg with an arsenal of explosives inside. Looking at Manchester United’s roster, they still have a reasonable amount of talent. I understand many find Rooney overrated, but I mean the guy can still score and with other names like Fellaini, Mata, Van Persie and Young, it doesn’t seem that off the wall to think of Man U as a title contender, even if there defense is a bit suspect.
However, so far Man U has looked like anything, but a top Premier League team. There troubles have included an opening week loss to Swansea City, a draw with last year’s cellar dwellers, Sunderland and another draw with newly promoted Burnley FC. Three matches that Manchester United should have at the very least, one win out of.
There was a lot of fanfare surrounding Van Gaal being named manager and as I stated earlier, even I got caught up a bit in it, but if things keep going the way they have been, the Red Devils of 2014-15 might be even more of a mess than 2013-14’s squad.
Recent deadline acquisitions like Di Maria and Falcao could very well give Man U the jolt they need, but even those headlines came with some comedy that only seemed all too fitting for the way this team is headed.
Who knows what the rest of the season will bring. I made a bold prediction based on hype at the beginning of the season and I now look stupid. Perhaps now that I have lost all faith in Van Gaal and the gang, they will find a way to make me look stupid again.
Number 1: Swansea City
Take one look at Swansea’s roster and you’ll be hard pressed to find a name that you’ve heard thrown around the pubs back here in the states. The Welsh based squad finished 12th last season and it is still likely they will find themselves back in that area by the time this season ends. But for now the team is one of only two who has a perfect nine points on the season so far.
The other team who has gone three for three this year is none other than Chelsea FC which isn’t a total shock, but what’s so exciting about this is that the two teams will meet next week in a battle of perennial favorites and a potential for a Cinderella story side.
A result of any kind against Chelsea would be huge for Swansea. Sure they beat Man U which was big and a 1-0 win against Burnley was great, but relatively expected, 3-0 over West Brom was impressive regardless of the opposition, but holding Chelsea to a draw or better yet beating the Blues? That would be something. Especially since Swansea has a date with Sunderland the next week which should be a walk in the park in comparison.
I don’t know how long it will last, but while it’s happening I am going to enjoy it. Swansea is making noise and their fans are lapping it up. I say? Good for them.
(Photo from Press Release)
This past week Las Vegas got a little closer to bringing the MLS to Sin City when the city reached an agreement on an estimated $410 million soccer stadium. Now as one may expect, this agreement is contingent upon the MLS actually approving of a team heading to the desert, whether it be an expansion team or a current team in need of a move. With all that said I think I speak for many of us when I ask…is soccer in Las Vegas really a good idea? Well why don’t we take a look at some of the things that may come up if the MLS really does decide to gamble in Nevada.
History of Professional Sports in Las Vegas:
Obviously one of the big worries is legal gambling, but I will be straight up honest right now and say that although I consider myself well versed in many aspects of professional athletics, gambling doesn’t happen to be one of them. At the very least, I am not knowledgeable enough to make a good argument one way or the other in this article, so I will abstain from speaking of this potential problem for now.
When it comes to professional sports in Vegas, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. It’s one of the largest cities in the United States to not have a professional sports team and most relatively large attempts at having a professional team in the city have failed.
Whether it be the XFL (remember that folks?), the Canadian Football League (yeah remember when they tried an American expansion as well?...ok well I do) or the UFL, every single attempt at professional American football has flopped in Vegas. In fact in the cases of the CFL’s “Las Vegas Posse” and the XFL’s “Las Vegas Outlaws”, both teams only lasted a year before folding (mind you, the XFL only lasted a year as a league in general). The Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL did last a little longer, but eventually folded three years after their 2009 inception.
As for minor league sports, Las Vegas is represented by both hockey and baseball. The AAA, “Las Vegas 51’s” are a part of the New York Mets organization and the ECHL’s “Las Vegas Wranglers” serve as an affiliate for the NHL’s, Calgary Flames. Although the Wranglers have had success as a team, the franchise has found itself homeless in 2014 which resulted in having to ask for a voluntary suspension from operations until the 2015-16 season. As for the 51’s, they have only managed to fill half of their 9,000+ stadium over the past few years and they currently sit in last place for average attendance in the Pacific Coast League this season so far.
Sure college sports have done ok in Vegas and both Rugby 7’s and National Finals Rodeo tend to be a hit in the city, but they are only there for a short time before they leave each year. It’s hard not to worry that even those popular events wouldn’t suffer the same consequences if they were given time for the shine to wear off.
I will be the first to admit that I am a weather nerd, so it’s always one of the first things I think of when an outdoor sport like soccer decides to move to a climate known for its severe weather one way or the other. Given the current MLS schedule, it seems nearly impossible that an MLS team would be able to play outdoors in Las Vegas being that through the midway part of the season, Vegas is pushing triple digits in the daytime.
Although the summer lows in Las Vegas do reach the almost perfect temperature of 75 degrees, it would still take some time for it to cool down to that level. San Jose is known to start matches as late as 8:00pm, but as I type this right now at 7:47pm in late August, the temperature in Vegas still reads at 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even putting soccer indoors would be rough as I have been inside arenas in that sort of heat and it doesn’t get much better inside…in fact most of the time it’s worse.
Not Worth the Gamble:
I am trying to come up with any pros to having soccer in Las Vegas, but to be honest I am drawing a blank. I feel bad for the true soccer fans that do live in Nevada, but I couldn’t imagine them being enough to support a franchise, especially when attendance in the MLS is on the rise and we know there are other options that will surely do better, such as Sacramento here out west. Experimenting with soccer in Sin City at this point seems completely reckless and irresponsible as the league is finally finding its feet.
I would love to be proven wrong, trust me. If soccer ended up taking off in Vegas, it would basically be the first professional sport to do so and how amazing would that be for the growth of the game domestically? But the realistic side of me just can’t see the sport fitting into the personality of the city whatsoever. Perhaps I am missing something and if that is the case, feel free to post your comments and let me know. Maybe I just need to be more of a gambler.