AdvanceIt was heartbreaking but not entirely undeserved nor unexpected, but still . . . that doesn’t make it hurt any less. We could all use a cuddle. There will be time to do a postmortem on what broke down and where things went wrong and what the USMNT can and must do better going forward (See what we did there?), but for now, we’re licking our wounds (with pride, mind you) and focused on the abundance of good and what Ian Dury called “reasons to be cheerful.”  Here’s Ian performing his list, what follows below is ours on this day-after the USA’s exit from the best World Cup in, well, maybe ever.

Analyzing the USMNT Exit from the World Cup: Reasons to Be Cheerful (in no particular order)

  • We came to play and play we did. Timmy Fucking Howard, America. #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave
  • We had a crazy-hard group (“of death”) and went further than previous World Cup winners Italy and Spain and (gulp) England.
  • Unlike some countries (ahem, England), we are progressing rather than regressing, waxing not waning.
  • At many times, we entertained and captivated more than perennial powerhouses Brazil and Argentina did.
  • The USMNT (and the USWNT) is a team, not a collection of one or a few or many individual superstar and their egos who can (or cannot) play together.
  • DeAndre Yedlin’s pace, trickery, and crosses
  • Julian mothaflippin’ Green
  • #IBelieve (and we did and we still do)
  • Beating our bogey team Ghana
  • Drawing with CR7’s Portugal
  • Only conceding one goal to Germany
  • Keeping step with a current Belgian side that has more individual talent, big names, and high-paid superstars than the US has had cumulatively
  • Toughness and grit: Many players flop and dive and go down easy, the USMNT played on with two broken noses, yo.
  • Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann
  • US Soccer Technical Director Jürgen Klinsmann
  • Both of the above all the way through to 2018
  • Social-media lovefest and interactions and connections galore
  • Media coverage and ratings and amazing attendance at gatherings that showed matches
  • America cared about and loved this team.
  • The rest of the world cared about and loved this team. Listen to Barry Glendenning‘s praise on The Guardian‘s World Cup Football Daily Podcast.
  • America turns out great keepers, Tim Howard being one of the very finest ever, and there is depth behind him.
  • Diversity of ethnic backgrounds and the stories behind these players and how/why they chose to rep the States
  • The inventiveness of that set piece. Damn you, Courtois!
  • No (Jermaine) one (Jones) lost his shit and went in with a brutal tackle or picked a fight or got sent off or did anything terrifically shameful.
  • While hardly Barça, Bayern, or Arsenal (on a good day), we are playing the most-attractive soccer the USMNT has ever played and it is highly watchable and entertaining. Think we’re biased?
  • No own goals or PKs given away
  • John “WTF just happened?!?!” Brooks
  • There is a clear-and-unique style to our national team’s game. It’s not samba or tiki-taka, but it’s not parking the bus or sitting back or playing dirty, and at times, it’s amazing; it’s grown beyond “run fast play hard,” finally.
  • That American soccer style is gritty, hard-working, fearless, tireless, team-oriented, relentless, never-say-die, fill weaknesses with strengths, help a brother out. Basically, it’s in keeping with the best of American identity and values.

All of which leads us to perhaps the most-optimistic takeaway of all from this breathtaking World Cup cycle for the US: Our campaign was not a novelty. One might say that expectations were high when we hosted in ’94, but it was still a novelty (in the truest sense of the word and in the idiomatic sense) for American sports fans. We had no domestic league and our national interest was piqued mostly because the games were on our doorstep. We came in dead last of the 32 in 1998 in France. We fielded capable teams in 2002 and 2010 (not so much in 2006), but there was never any expectation of going the distance.

This year was different. We expected to win. Each game. We expected to win because we knew these players and we were familiar with their capabilities. We watched them here at home (Klinsmann took 10 MLS players to Brazil — 7 started against Germany) in a thriving-and-growing domestic league and we knew them from their spells at European and Mexican clubs. We watched them dominate the Hex and bring home a Gold Cup. We argued endlessly about Jones vs. Beckerman at CDM and whom to play up top. We fretted over Joze’s lack of games at Sunderland and how that would hurt him in terms of fitness and confidence. We had these discussions because we cared and we had options to consider. Cutting the squad to a final 23 was painstaking because we finally had options. Ultimately, Klinsmann opted to leave home America’s most-decorated-and-experienced player in Landon Donovan to much national pearl-clutching. Jürgen and the federation can repeat “this was about winning now” ad nauseam but don’t be fooled — the selection of John Brooks (goal), Julian Green (goal), and DeAndre Yedlin (blazing speed and sumptuous crosses) was about the next cycle and the next cycle is almost too promising to consider. The future is bright.

Much respect is due US Soccer and their marketing partners — they were able to mine our collective patriotism to lure in not only the casual fan but the non-fan as well. ESPN’s coverage was excellent. Ratings records were broken and then broken again. People stayed home from work to watch because they had hope — they believed.

“The USA deserve credit for their approach. Even Klinsmann had understood the power of belief by the end. On conclusion of the group stage he told his players’ families to re-book their return flights for after the final on 13 July. It was always an optimistic line but that is in keeping with the way that his team have attacked this World Cup. Despite being outmanoeuvred at times by technically superior teams, they have always tried to carry the game to their opponents when they can … That approach won many admirers back home. The sight of tens of thousands of fans packing into Soldier Field – home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears – to watch this game on a giant screen will give hope to those who yearn to see the USA embrace another kind of football. They believe that a culture shift is occurring. They believe that this is a beginning, not an end.” –Paolo Bandini, The Guardian

We’re 237 days out from the start of the World Cup in Brazil, but will the world’s soccer-craziest nation actually be ready to host? Let’s timeline the last three months or so to get a sense of where things stand in terms of preparedness, particularly of the stadiums in terms of construction, cost, labor practices, and deadlines, all of which have been contentious issues to say the least.

Signs o’ the Times

Let’s start with FIFA’s description of the host nation. Football’s governing body has devoted three banal paragraphs to Brazil’s economy. There is no mention at all of anything since the 1980s and there is certainly no addressing the rampant poverty and squalor in which many Brazilians live. Nor is there mention of what has transpired this year in the form of the highly publicized protests and riots regarding economic woes and tremendous inequality amongst Brazil’s economic classes. None of this is at all surprising given FIFA’s commitment to its “out of sight, out of mind” strategy. This sort of ignorance is to be expected from the organization led by a man who in 2011 denied that racism in soccer existed and just started to maybe wake up to racist abuse in 2013. We’ll say it: Sepp Blatter is, at best, an insensitive man and no can question that he leads an out-of-touch organization (We’ll save discussions about Russia and Qatar for later). That their information about Brazil is selective and shallow and outdated sums up FIFA itself.

FIFA’s guide to the host cities and guide to the stadiums are similarly devoid of real substance though we did enjoy peeping the World Cup 2014 host-city posters. They are colorful, garish, over the top, and chock full of sponsor logos. Still, they are interesting representations of each city and the overarching Brazilian national identity. For a useful guide to the stadiums (as in location, capacity, and matches to be hosted there), check out TheStadiumGuide.com’s World Cup 2014 page. For “a comprehensive guide to the 12 stadiums that will play host to the tournament in Brazil, including capacity, cost, building progress and the likelihood of a lasting legacy,” we recommend The Guardian’s World Cup 2014: Brazil’s Stadiums (updated October 16, 2013 so with actual relevant content! FIFA, take note.)

Right, as for those stadiums, the estimated cost as pitched in Brazil’s 2007 bid for the tournament was a total of $1 billion at no cost to the Brazilian public as the funds were to be secured entirely from private sources. By late-June 2013 (with still a year before the games), the spending had tripled to $3.68 billion and 91 percent of the total costs were being funded publicly. That money came from other projects, causes, and commitments, as well as price hikes passed on to Brazilian citizens. And we got the Vinegar Revolt, the Brazil protests of mid-2013 that coincided with the Confederations Cup. The protests have dissipated but the protesters aren’t gone and Midia NINJA, a collective of citizen reporters and street journalists, is adamant that they will use grassroots media to make sure that the story stays visible. Expect to see more and more as we roll into 2014 and get closer to kick-off in June. These people have legitimate grievances — regardless of how much they love their football — and they (and their legit grievances) aren’t going away.

Boots of gold, balls of steel. Romario.This passion for the game combined with the anger over the economic injustice was epitomized by soccer-legend-turned-elected-official Romario speaking of feeling sickened by the spending. For god’s sake, the man was the leading scorer in Brazil’s ’94 Cup-winning side and he no longer supports the endeavor and calls Blatter a thief and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke a blackmailer.

I am not against the World Cup but I can’t be for the money that is being spent on it. As much as we want the World Cup the Brazilian people deserve respect, they don’t deserve this open abuse of their money.” –Romario, October 16, 2013

The exorbitant costs and bait-and-switch bid burden passed on to Brazilian citizens is serious business, but it’s compounded by additional issues:

We’ll have more on the progress of the stadiums and the larger effects of such spending and construction as the Cup gets closer and deadlines loom large. Until then, we’ll leave you with these images of the progress and prospects of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup stadiums, and yes, the stadiums are breathtaking, but are they necessary or worth it?

WCQs & CONCACAF Qualifying Madness

San Zusi

“Para La Calificacion Al Mundial Del Tri”

It felt like a party last night among footy fans in this part of the world as The Hex wrapped up with all the drama one could ask for. Soccer Twitter went bananas as we watched a wilting Mexico side go down, then draw even, then fall to Costa Rica, knocking them out of qualification. That is until our beloved Yanks rallied twice from one down to shock Pamana with two goals in stoppage time, ending Los Canaleros’ World Cup dreams and ironically saving our rivals to the South (to the hysterical delight of the Mexican TV announcers). This despite many USMNT fans hoping their team would take a dive just to stick it to Mexico. The Americans were gracious, almost seeming sorry for the meaningless win, but it was nice to see young Aron Johansson get the winner for his first goal in a US shirt. With the Panama loss, El Tri finishes fourth in the tournament and will play New Zealand’s All Whites for a shot in Brazil. The irony of this was not lost on the internet, as the #DeNada and #YoureWelcomeMexico hashtags and hilarious memes began to fly, including this awesome gloating tweet from US Soccer:

The day had many sad story lines.  We were all Pharaohs yesterday, having been raptly following former US skipper Bob Bradley’s amazing story in Egypt. The movie will have a new ending, though, and not the one we wanted as Egypt fell 6-1 to an outstanding Ghanaian side. Bradley will continue as Egypt’s coach, though as he put it yesterday, “[their] dream of qualifying for the World Cup has become nearly impossible.”

Sad that they went 6-0-0 and tragically drew Ghana for a WC spot, while Mexico went 2-3-5 and drew a soft New Zealand for their play-in game. Ironic, too, that they needed the help of the US to get there. Panama’s run was a great story, and ESPN’s and Men in Blazers’ Rog Bennett led us in mourning their hopes:

Scoreboard, Seattle – Timbers Top the Table

The Portland Timbers defeated the Seattle Sounders in the “Cascadia Classico” because they are better than them. Also because Ozzie Alonso is an insane person. Also because Clint Dempsey is a fragile, fragile man. It was an absolute melee of a match. However, Sigi Schmid’s bitching after the game drew a (meager) fine from the league and was absolutely ridiculous; apparently he was not present to witness his boys’ attempted murder of Darligton Nagbe the last time these teams met up north. Regardless, what an amazing 12 month turnaround for Portland. Should their form continue, Caleb Porter seems a lock for MLS coach of the year.  The inimitable Liviu Bird did a great job breaking down their tactical transformation under Porter for ProSoccerTalk.

In other MLS news, the league has been discussing changing its schedule to be summer-to-spring, though that won’t happen any time soon. This makes sense for many reasons and we hope it actually happens.

No One Thought This Would Go Badly, Right?

Springtime For DiCanio

Springtime For DiCanio

The 175-day DiCanio experiment at the Stadium of Light ended Sunday as the Italian was sacked by Sunderland officials at the request of everyone who ever met him several first team players. His iron-fisted reign over the clubhouse and “systematic destruction of the players’ self-esteem and self-worth” could never fly in the top flight and exactly no one was surprised.

Sunderland will once again put together a list of candidates for manager, but players are already reporting a relieved, lighter atmosphere at training (and the Black Cats even notched their first win this season albeit a League Cup win over Peterborough). Here’s hoping Jozy and the boys can turn it around after a 0-5 start.

Taking Stock of the Table (with a North London Slant)

In other Prem doings, have you checked the table lately? As of today, we at IntoTheSix are some happy supporters with Arsenal and Spurs separated only by goal differential at the very top. Even more pleasing is seeing Manchester United in eighth spot and trailing both North London clubs by five points after a Manchester Derby that made Manuel Pellegrini look like the smartest man in Manchester and David Moyes look like the dumbest.

It’s early days still with only five of thirty-eight games played, but it’s unusual to be at this point (however early it may be) and see United so woeful (complete with angry, impatient supporters) and the top spot not occupied by Chelsea or a Manchester club. Obviously there is ample time and opportunity for the wheels to come off at both Arsenal and Spurs, and both clubs are notorious for such destruction be it through an injury plague or psychological slump or burnout due to involvement in so many tournaments. Arsenal’s fragility at the back, moments of madness (looking at you, Koscielny), and inability to get fit and stay that way loom large. At Spurs, for all the buying they’ve done, the squad hasn’t fully gelled and their inability to score almost any goals from open play is deeply troubling (though Paulinho seems to have found his Prem mojo in the last week as he clicked on with goals from an extra-time backheel and a Zlatan-esque karate kick). We’re under no delusions (even with Ozil), neither of us picked our own clubs to win the league, but for now, we’ll take the table and savor it. Oh, and this week’s kudos go to Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen for this bit of desperate-but-semi-effective defending, clearly a technique picked up (and pulled down) by watching fellow defender Alessandro Nesta swipe at Mario Gomez.

The Rest of the League and Some European Class

As for a certain other London club, there is a strange worry about Chelsea and a feel that Mourinho, for a change, isn’t in full control of the his players and is losing his grip on himself. It’s weird and not just the Mata situation, which does bring up the bigger issue of adapting a system to one or a few special players versus hoping those players might adapt to the desired system versus calling it off and letting those special players either languish or be sold. But this is Mourinho and he expects the mountain to move to him. Honestly, at this point and knowing that Oscar and Hazard and and Mata can definitely play together to deadly effect, it’s time for Mata to go where he will be appreciated if he can’t get games in that triad. And he ought go where he is understood, namely to a resurgent Napoli under Rafa Benitez. Seriously, if you’re not watching Serie A, you should be for Napoli (Edinson who?) Andif if you’re not watching La Liga, you should be for Isco (Gareth who?)

US Internationals

We’ve been discussing USWNT coach Tom Sermanni’s embarrassment of riches for quite some time, and his challenge remains choosing an 18-player gameday roster since he has a pool at least twice that deep from which to choose.

Klinsy will go big for remaining WCQs, and now we’ll finally get to see what his vaunted German Experience has wrought.  While he is realistic about the Yanks’ World Cup hopes and dreams, he certainly has more options than arguably any previous US skipper.  More options at the back would be welcome, including IT6 crush John Brooks if he stops getting hurt. If Michael Parkhurst is to be one of those options on the backline, though, he needs more competitive minutes.  Geoff Cameron, though, scores when he wants.  Keep up with all of our Yanks abroad at this fabulous site dedicated to following our boys overseas and elsewhere.

Football Bits

Men in Blazers favorites Leyton Orient are on a tear in League One: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2430367/Leyton-Orient-win-games-row–Eight-facts.html

A very cool collaboration between two football fans at Percolate and Men in Blazers, Footy Tags: http://www.footytags.com/

IT6 favorite Pirlo to England? Spain? http://www.soccerbyives.net/2013/09/tuesday-unresolved-walcott.html

USA hearts Man U: http://meninblazers.com/image/62108748939

Others: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/relegationzone/id/1365?cc=5901

Design nerds – Football Type: http://www.footballtype.co.uk/

Enjoy!  See you on Twitter.

An Embarrassment of Riches

Oh my goodness, footy fans, so much to watch last weekend! The NBC content was superb and got big numbers, we had Champions League on Fox Soccer, NWSL semifinals on Fox Sports 2 and FoxSoccer2Go, and nobody got anything done all weekend. You’re using our Live-Soccer-on-US-TV calendar, right?

Cardiff defeats Manchester City

We may have turned red, and now we’re not blue, but we’re Cardiff City and we’re better than you.

The Sounders topped the Timbers in MLS’s most-heated rivalry and 70,000 people showed up to see Clint Dempsey play in the Cascadia clash. Depending on the source, this was either the third or fourth largest crowd assembled on earth this weekend. For a soccer match. In America. Chills.

This weekend is also full of big-or-otherwise-interesting games (though not so much in Bundesliga action) with a North London Derby (cue Spurs fans blowing up your Twitter timeline with “#COYS“), Timbers v Real Salt Lake, Liverpool v Manchester United, Juventus v Lazio, Madrid v Bilbao, Valencia v Barcelona, and the mighty NWSL Championship! The league gets its storybook match-up with Abby versus Baby Horse as WNY Flash take on the Thorns and Alex Morgan is reported to be 100% and ready to return to the squad.

Predictions Are Back!

We missed weeks one and two (which is fine because we would have been all kinds of wrong) but time to return to the hubris that is predicting the EPL!

As always, we adhere to the BBC’s Mark “Lawro” Lawrenson Football Focus predictions rules, which means that a correct result is worth ONE point, a correct score is worth a full THREE points.

Go forth and footy, fans – hit us up on Twitter and let us know what you’re up to.

MATCH JOSH LENA RESULT
SATURDAY
Man City v Hull City 3-0 2-0 2-0
West Ham v Stoke City 1-1 1-1 0-1
Chelsea v Aston Villa n/a n/a ppnd
Crystal Palace v Sunderland 0-2 1-1 3-1
Cardiff City v Everton 0-2 0-2 0-0
Norwich v Southampton 0-1 1-1 1-0
Newcastle v Fulham 2-1 1-1 1-0
SUNDAY
West Brom v Swansea 0-1 0-2 0-2
Liverpool v Manchester United 1-2 1-2 1-0
Arsenal v Tottenham 2-1 1-1 1-0
POINTS WEEK/TOTAL 4 6

A North London Study in Contrast

Who, me? Overpriced?

Who, me? Overpriced? Simianesque?

We could’ve easily called this blog “The North London Derby” or “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” as our allegiances here at IT6HQ are split between Gunners and Spurs. Unnatural, we know. As a result, our following of the (nasty) transfer window this summer has been a bifurcated season of comedy and tragedy. While the Arsenal side fiddles while Emirates burns, the Spurs side of the house is elated.

Despite Arsène Wenger’s desperate protestations, the Gunners’ opening day loss to Villa underscored Arsenal supporters’ angst over a dearth of impact signings this summer. Twenty-four players sold, including Arshavin, Boateng (Daniel, not KP or Jerome or the old-man George), and Gervinho, and one bought does not instill confidence for the upcoming campaign. Perhaps the window is just open too long. Fans are right to be frustrated, and they took to the post to let Ivan Gazidis know it. Supporters are demanding action to fend off a weakened squad‘s potential drop from the top four (a tragedy predicted by Arsenal-fan Lena). Hey, at least we did well today in Turkey. At least.

While Arsenal dithers, Tottenham has been extremely busy this summer, signing Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue, and Paulinho in a staggering £60m spending spree. Selling Steven Caulker, Clint “You’re Dead To Me” Dempsey, Tom Huddlestone and workhorse Scotty Parker (I’ll miss you, boo) netted the club £23m, and an almost certain sale of Welsh wunderkind Gareth Bale to Real Madrid may bring something like £93m (Gab Marcotti offers speculation as to how that number was reached) as well as antsy Portuguese left back Fabio Coentrao (he of the “he who shall not be named . . . to the squad, that is” incident). Sightings of 25-year-old Anzhi Makhachkala attacking midfielder Willian in London spurred further speculation around White Hart Lane, and it now appears that an ambitious André Villas-Boas is poised to break the Tottenham Hotspur transfer record for the third time this summer with his £30m signing. That’s quite a few single-named players for Spurs! With Sandro fit and perhaps more on the way, it’s samba style this year for Spurs. It’s pretty clear they’re spending their Bale money already, with plans to add Argentinian AS Roma midfielder Erik Lamela as well, if he doesn’t fall to Arsenal. AVB has a thing for South America, apparently, and I love it.

Now, in all this elation we have failed to address the hand-wringing and consternation from Spurs supporters over the departure of the reigning PFA Player of Year and Young Player award winner (and oddly simian) midfielder Gareth Bale. We know he is a great player in the PL, an ace on free kicks and we know he scores when he wants. But honestly and objectively, he was a liability defending set pieces, and he has one go-to move as an inverted winger. Clubs have enough film now to study and shut down his push left. He lacks “Andy Carroll explosiveness” and he has no right foot. I loved when he got us goals, but I never fell in love with his game. Plus, his sale is just good business and it strengthens the club, especially at a time when they are set on a new stadium.

Spurs lineup August 25, 2012 v West Brom Spurs lineup (maybe) August 25, 2013 v Swans

Elsewhere in London…

Chelsea did a number on Hull and what a Chelsea side this team could be (though they didn’t do a number on a much-strengthened Villa side and are up to Old Trafford next). Young, energetic, pacey, and creative up front; strong and experienced and solid in the back; Mourinho holding the reins; depth in pretty much all positions . . . it does bode well and supports Josh’s belief that the Blues will win the league this season. Chelsea looked so, so good for so much of Saturday’s match and a player who really impressed was live-wire Kevin De Bruyne, yet another young bad-ass Belgian. De Bruyne is young, recently returned from a loan spell in the Bundesliga, and he looks a hell of a lot to handle for those defending against him and for sure one to watch. His performance wasn’t without fault and at 22 years of age, De Bruyne looks a little over-eager and prone to shooting from distance and using trickery when the simple play might be best. But he’s 22. And really good. And really excited and exciting. And Belgian. So no, no we can’t really criticize the spots where he looks impetuous and a little too exuberant. De Bruyne is bursting with spark and promise and he’ll get what he needs under Mourinho and with the talents of Oscar, Mata, and Hazard, as well as the leadership and experience of Lampard (while hopefully not being mentored by John Terry). Speaking of Lamps, he too had a hell of a game on Saturday, including a stunning free kick from long range. Not bad for a guy who was labeled last season as washed-up soon-to-be-MLS-fodder and who was considered by Hammers fans in 1996 as “not good enough” (‘fank ‘eavans for uncle ‘arry.)

Other Stuff That Caught Our Eyes This Week (The non-NoLo stuff)

One-Offs:

Let us know what you’re reading. Buzz us here or on the Twitters.

IntoTheSix.com presents a calendar of US-televised LIVE soccer matches!

We can’t account for every league available on every channel to every viewer (packages vary — ain’t that the truth), so we’ve hit the biggies like the English Prem, Spain’s La Liga, German Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1, Italian Serie A, MLS, NWSL, Champions League, Europa League, World Cup (and other major non-annual tournaments) on channels including NBC (and affiliates), ESPN (and affiliates), GolTV, beIN Sport, and FOX (and affiliates). This calendar is a constantly updated work in progress and we gratefully acknowledge www.livesoccertv.com for being a very-helpful source for info.

How to add: Click the little +Google Calendar in the bottom right of the calendar. Or add by URL or download in iCal format or grab the XML link.

Note: Don’t freak or fret. The image displayed shows events on ET, but importing the calendar into your calendar will set those times to your time zone. Not seeing the calendar below? Refresh your page.

Super Heroes

You are super, you are our heroes.

You are super, you are our heroes.

Loyal readers know that we are mental for the women’s game both stateside and abroad here at IT6HQ and we are all over the nascent NWSL. The league is producing an excellent product, and refreshingly many of the compelling players of this campaign are outside of the group of allocated players from the Canadian, U.S., and Mexican federations. Thorns FC forward Tiffany Weimer, co-creator and editor of the excellent Our Game Magazine, took to her blog to reflect on the game and why we play it after the Rose City Riveters honored the team with an enormous tifo on the occasion of the squad’s final home game. It’s great stuff and we’d love to see more players get involved in promoting the league for the right reasons, especially at this point in the season with what should be a gritty playoff series on the horizon.

Wherein We Do Not Discuss Clint Dempsey as a *!@##$ Seattle Sounder

The USMNT is set to face a really good Bosnia-Herzegovina side in a friendly today, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called up an intriguing group consisting heavily of players currently in European and Mexican competition. IT6 favorite Michael Bradley thinks the Yanks can win.

Youngsters like John Anthony Brooks, Cody Cropper, Aron Johannsson, and Bobby Wood will see their first time with the senior team. Brooks has turned a lot of heads already in the Bundesliga and looks to be a very exciting prospect for the future of the US Men’s National Team. He is an amazing physical specimen and has already shown he can score for Hertha. Johannsson only recently decided to represent the US men’s national team on the international stage, filing his one-time FIFA switch after having represented Iceland’s Under-21 team.  Klinsmann has been after Johannsson for some time, staying in constant contact with the 22-year-old forward who has started the new Eredivisie season by scoring in consecutive games for AZ.

Some stalwarts will not be in action as Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan will stay home to compete with their MLS squads and Michael Orozco Fiscal is staying home with a hammy injury. Another noteworthy absence is that of Tim Chandler, who was not called away from FC Nuremburg.  Many speculated that Timmy’s relations with the Nats had soured (again), but Klinsmann said “The relationship is no problem. He is not here because there are other players who deserve to be ahead of him” according to Man In Blazer Roger Bennet.  The Zmajevi will be a tough test for Klinsy and the boys as they get a couple final look at their options before the WCQ effort gets going in earnest.

Wherein We Do Not Discuss the Transfer Window (Sort of but We Do Make Predictions)

The Prem is back! Well, almost. American fans are going to be treated to perhaps the most comprehensive English football TV coverage ever, so pick a team if you haven’t one and sit back and enjoy. Spurs even signed an American coach! Also, join our fantasy league!

About the league, well, so much depends on an over-priced simian-esque Welshman, an English striker prone to biting the hand that feeds, and a lunatic Uruguayan prone to biting (period). So much also depends on the next two weeks of late-window transfer action. Without knowing how those things go, we wanted to get our predictions on paper before Saturday kick-off. Here’s our take on where the Prem will shake down come the end of game 38.

Josh Finish Lena 
Chelsea
1 Manchester City
Manchester City 2 Chelsea
Manchester United
3 Manchester United
Tottenham
Tottenham
Arsenal
5 Liverpool
Liverpool
6 Arsenal
Swansea
7 Swansea
Everton
8 Everton
Newcastle
9 West Ham
West Ham 10 Southampton
West Brom 11 Fulham
Southampton 12  Aston Villa 
Aston Villa
13 Norwich
Sunderland 14 Sunderland
Norwich
15 West Brom
Cardiff 16 Newcastle
Fulham 17 Stoke
Stoke 18 Cardiff
Crystal Palace
19 Hull 
Hull 20 Crystal Palace
'arry is not amused and neither are we. In fact, we actually miss his wheeling and dealing.

‘arry is not amused and neither are we. In fact, we actually miss his wheeling and dealing.

This transfer window is not just the stuff of silly season, it’s the stuff of nails on a chalkboard. I don’t know why this round of what is a known season of insanity seems so much more cringeworthy, but it does. It’s not just the push-me-pull-you Bale-Rooney-Suarez summer transfer saga (though that is a big part of the irritation), it’s not that David Moyes seems unable to do a real deal when he finally has ample funds, it’s not that Jose Mourinho has been atypically subdued, it’s not that PSG and Monaco have out-Chelsea’d Chelsea and seem to have no interest in Financial Fair Play, and it’s not even the rule-breaking Dempsey move to the Seattle (a good explanation by Grant Wahl here), it’s the everything and the whole madness being greater than the sum of individual insane parts.

As an Arsenal fan and Wenger apologist, even I am nearing the end of my rope and I hope that other Gunners fans feel similarly. We used to win trophies, bring in stellar young talent on the cheap, play with style, and act with integrity on and and off the pitch. Then we stopped winning trophies and we consoled ourselves by faith in Wenger’s young Gunners and his continental connections and great eye. We were proud that we were the rare club to actually make a profit and that we still played with style and attacking flair while others parked the bus. Then not only were we not winning trophies, we weren’t playing such attractive football and we were maintaining profitability by charging our own fans outrageous ticket prices. Clubs like Chelsea were playing lovely stuff with their Spaniards and Brazilians up front, Swansea became the club to entertain and to make it happen on the cheap, Newcastle took the reins of the French revolution, and we were not only getting knocked out of the Champions League but barely securing qualification. But we still had our integrity. No longer so.

I’ll say it: In pursuing Luis Suarez, we have hit bottom. How could a player so despicable, so reviled, so not in the Arsenal mold and philosophy be considered Arsenal material and a sound buy, especially at that price? What’s worse, Suarez is a known quantity and sure to act out again. He can be a wonderful player but the bad so outweighs the good and any good he might do our 2013/2014 campaign won’t even come until game seven given his ban. Um, a ban for biting another human being. Again. (I’ll spare you the linkage.) Why on earth is Wenger now deciding to all of a sudden splash the cash on the worst possible buy? To add insult to injury, we could have had Higuain (and should have had him and yes I rate him highly), Llorente (Who doesn’t love a big man up top?), Villa (great player who would have been a great Arsenal fit), or Soldado (reasonably priced, not insane, proven, and we’d have pipped Spurs). We all know that we need a big-name signing and that Wenger likes to leave things late. But with only Yaya Sanogo in and a good number of players out and Arshavin completely wasted, this is not the time for desperation buys for big bucks. I fear that we have already botched this season with transfer motion as appalling in activity as it is in absence of such. Arsenal fans: Could you in good conscience cheer on Luis Suarez were he a Gunner? I couldn’t, I can’t, I won’t.

Wenger Dithers While Emirates Burns?Prem Madness

The transfer cacaphony has not abated, and nor has our sickness over Arsenal‘s dithering. Wenger primarily to blame? Do Gooners even want Suarez or Rooney? Gareth Bale is as good as gone from Spurs. Or is he? Yes, he is. Soldado, then? Okay, enough on transfers, our heads hurt. In terms of player selections we can control, our choice for fantasy this year is the newly revamped Yahoo! Fantasy Premier League because the rules are a bit different than most fantasy games and we enjoy those twists. What are you playing and has the obsessive tinkering already begun?

NWSL

The NWSL playoff picture is is solidifying, and after a bit of a swoon for the top squads, things are looking nearer the pre-season expectations. For Thorns FC, this has much to do with the return of midfielder Tobin Heath. We don’t believe her to be the best midfielder in women’s soccer (that might be Lauren “Chensaw” Cheney), and like Pia, we don’t even think she’s peaked yet, but she’s damned good. While we’re on that subject, anyone keeping up with the league but not following Richard Farley is missing out; he is owning coverage of the nascent league. Props to Jeff Kassouf at the Equalizer, as well.

Also, while we’re in the spirit of growing the women’s game, go here and take this survey to help good things happen. And go watch the Women’s Euros. Now. Current title-holders zee Germans just eliminated their Swedish hosts and they seem intent on making up for slightly underperforming at WC11. If ever you doubt them, check out manager Silvia Neid’s player picture from the ’80s. Hard. Core. No. Joke.

USMNT / Gold Cup

Landon Dominantovan has assuredly passed his “tryout” for Jurgen “Fashionista” Klinsmann, hasn’t he? He’s certainly entertaining us. The Gold Cup form of the Americans has been ascendant, for sure, but have they found the right formula? Perhaps. Perhaps not. One thing is certain, we’re growing to like Kyle Beckerman, white-dude dreads and all. We’ve been tough on him in the past, but he has been Mr. Steady in the middle for these matches.

Expect the US Men to face their toughest test yet against Honduras, literally and figuratively. Hopefully the return of enforcer Jermaine Jones will keep Los Catrachos honest. We’d love to see a 4-3-2-1 with Eddie Johnson up top, especially since he takes only 14 seconds to score. However, perhaps the Yanks will falter in the awful conditions at We Hate Soccer Dallas Cowboy Stadium. Grass in Jerryworld is shameful.

Oh yeah, here in Charm City, we got a lot of questions about why Sunday’s Gold Cup matches in Baltimore were so heavily attended by El Salvador fans. Grant Wahl has the scoop.

MLS

There is a downside to emerging as a difference-maker on the pitch and Darlington Nagbe is learning this the hard way. Speaking of downsides, Chivas USA is a complete disgrace and HBO’s Real Sports recently dug into why and let’s just say that Alexi Lalas should feel mighty vindicated as he’s been saying these things (and more) for ages. Don Garber and MLS are going to need to deal with this soon or it could be a blight that besmirches the rest of the league. Lalas recently tweeted: “Knowing @TheSoccerDon, it’s driving him nuts to follow legal advice and not comment on Chivas USA discrimination allegations.”

But Khan he do it on a wet, windy Tuesday night in Stoke?

But Khan he do it on a wet, windy Tuesday night in Stoke?

Will we see a new version of Fulhamerica as Jacksonville Jaguars owner (and Ron Jeremy lookalikeShahid “Shad” Khan takes over the club from Egyptian-Englishman business magnate (and natty-dressing Michael Jackson fan) Mohamed Al Fayed? Once the American refuge in the Prem, now gone are Marcus Hahnemann, Eddie Lewis, Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Kasey Keller, and of course IT6 super-crush Clint Dempsey. Currently the only sort-of-Yank at Fulham is US-born giant Norwegian international Brede Hangeland. But in some ways this is testament to greater integration as American players become more evenly distributed through the Prem (and make places in other leagues abroad). As well, American ownership and financial backing is (for better or for worse) becoming increasingly prevalent in the Prem.

While Fulham’s new owner is well liked and a kind of cult hero to Jacksonville fans, what he can and will do for the Cottagers remains to be seen and it is fair to say that for as likable as Khan is and as successful in business, the Jaguars aren’t an NFL top team and it will be tough (and expensive) for Khan to surpass Al Fayed’s many accomplishments with Fulham.

Fulham’s squad contains some gems in Alex Kačaniklić, Bryan Ruiz, Hugo Rodallega, and Dimitar Berbatov (when he’s in the mood, of course); and they have veteran experience in Damien Duff, John Arne Riise, and Giorgios Karagounis; but they also have liabilities such as Steve Sidwell and Phillipe Senderos (the former a bit of a mess, the latter prone to lapses in concentration). So far during the transfer window, Fulham has sold more than they’ve bought and lost Mark Schwarzer, Chris Baird, Simon Davies, and Mladen Petric. In terms of acquisitions, they’ve gotten Netherlands first-choice goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, turned loans Sascha Riether and Corey Gameiro into buys, and added potentially very-exciting Patjim Kasami.

With the benefit of hindsight and heavy on the “I wish instead” factor, it would have been nice to see in-form IT6 crush Jozy Altidore head to Fulham after a fantastic season in the Dutch Eredivisie, represent some American soccer excellence of the non-goalkeeping variety, and work with affable gents like new owner Khan and cuddly goofy-grandpa manager Martin Jol instead of being off to Sunderland under not-so-affable Paolo Di Canio, but so it goes. Fulham still has work to do in the transfer market and while Khan doesn’t seem too concerned with players’ nationalities, we surely wouldn’t mind some Yanks back at the club that really supported American talent in England when no one thought much of US soccer.

Portland's Gold Cup Tifo

Soccer City USA

The Yanks Are Coming

It was a good week for the Yanks as they rolled Guatemala 6-0 in their final tune-up for the Gold Cup.  Landon Donovan shot his way into the record books with 2 goals to get to 52 total for the US along with 51 assists.  He is the first U.S. men’s team player to reach 50 in either category.  It should be noted that 8 women have already surpassed this mark, however!

In their first match of Gold Cup 2013 it was a party in Portland and the US men sprayed 28 shots on goal in putting together a 6-1 routing of a beleaguered Belize squad.  Chris “Wondowlowski” Wondolowski had a hat trick and our dear Stu Holden netted his first international goal in 4 years, as well.

Keeping It Stateside

We’re totally following Detroit City FC – a great story with big ambitions.

US Soccer’s scouting network is bigger than you think.

Eric Wynalda and his Silverbacks won the NASL.

Gold Cup call-ups are affecting MLS teams differently.

How good (or bad) is youth coaching in the States?  Good assistant coaching can help.

NWSL is at mid-season in their inaugural year and already thinking about expansion.

And finally, just in time for Gold Cup hosting and the 2014 MLS All-Star Game, Cascadia and MLS have buried the hatchet.

Not American Section

We are PSYCHED for Women’s Euro and you should be, too.

Is MLS helping Canada?

Great read: Muslim players’ effect on the Prem.

Are Borussia Dortmund the model Eurpoean club?

The most hated American soccer team plays in Germany.

 

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