It’s been months since Jeremy and D.J. haven’t had a full plate of football to chat about on a podcast. But with just Premier League and MLS action going down in the last week, this week’s line up seemed comparatively bare… before hand, anyway. In England, the discussion included Liverpool’s title hopes being boosted, the relegation race tightening up, promotion from the Championship and the magical displays of Jason Puncheon. Domestically, we touch on the Crew’s dramatic draw, a new club being gifted to Atlanta, and a baseball stadium being the home for the league’s supposed marquee franchise. We also had a few listener questions to tackle at the end, so prepare yourself for a surprisingly full Episode 36 of the Wrong Side of the Pond Podcast.
Poor David Moyes. His Manchester United side — nearly the exact same side that won the title last season by an eleven point gap — have now suffered 10 losses in 22 matches in 2014, have been mathematically eliminated from Champions League contention for next season, and look a broken incompetent side. Worse, the Scotsman was made to suffer a humiliating 0-2 defeat upon Moyes’ return to his former stomping grounds of Goodison Park.
And adding insult to injury, a crafty, potentially clairvoyant Everton supporter might just have served as an early bad omen if the rumors doing the rounds today are to be believed. Either that or the Grim Reaper is actually a Manchester United fan who’s decided enough is enough, and that he needed to take action into his own hands. Unfortunately, we never got to find out, as the Reaper was escorted out of the grounds before he could complete the grizzly deed.
No matter what your cup of tea is when it comes to world football, odds are there’s a segment in Episode 35 of the podcast that will tickle your fancy. You like the Premier League? We’ve got thoughts on Liverpool’s title surge and the growing scrap at the bottom of the table — plus Spurs and Chelsea thoughts, per normal. If you prefer continental football? We chatted about the Champions League semifinal draw, paying special attention to highlighting the “Courtois Conundrum” between Atlético and Chelsea. Should you desire domestic soccer, we’ve got musings on Major League Soccer and the rumors that the Copa América will be coming to the States. So grab a pint (unless your driving) or a coffee, sit back and strap yourself in for the latest edition of the WSOTP Pod.
As if there could even be any other choice for this week’s “Pic of the Week”, making the selection for today’s post was only hard in that I needed to find the picture that best captured the incredible moments before kickoff between Liverpool and Manchester City. But having found one that I deemed suitable, I find that it still doesn’t quite do the raw emotion on display at Anfield yesterday justice. This video does a slightly better job of it, but I can only imagine the experience was far more intense in person.
If for some reason you don’t know why the Kop end of Liverpool’s Anfield were putting on such a display ahead of a pivotal top of the table clash, definitely take some time to read up on the Hillsborough Disaster. In short, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in a fan crush 25 years ago at Hillsborough Stadium at the start of an FA Cup semifinal match against Nottingham Forest. And while that was more than enough to make it the largest sporting disaster in English football history, the way the authorities and press handled the aftermath was even more disconcerting.
So, unlike most times where a tifo is raised to celebrate the team, this weekend’s display at Liverpool was a tribute to the memory of those 96 fans. And it was for them that Anfield sang so loudly –and sat so quietly — all to commemorate their losses and remind the world that they will never have to walk alone.
I don’t often like to talk about my rather lengthy soccer bucket list. The reason for that is that — barring a sudden explosion in popularity of WSOTP, a major network picking me up as a pundit or me hitting lottery — being able to check off most of the items on the list is not really financially viable.
So when fate occasionally re-adjusts circumstances in a way that might allow for a slim chance to actually cross one-off the list, I get a rush of hopeful euphoria similar to one that most people might experience when they find out that they’re expecting their first child.
And yesterday’s news “confirming” that a special 100th anniversary edition of South America’s premier international competition, the Copa América, would be coming to the United States in 2016 gave me those warm fuzzy feelings of expectation.
Alongside such lofty goals of attending a Champions League final, a Spanish Clásico, a Boca-River match and other similarly influential matches, attending a match for the Copa América is easily one of the most important soccer-related events that I have on my bucket list. Admittedly, attending one in South America was the original goal. But given that it will be far easier — not to mention significantly cheaper — I’m willing to bend the rules.
This isn’t exactly that new of news, though. The rumor has been doing the rounds now for quite some time, with CONMEBOL even going so far as to prematurely announcing the event last year, much to the dismay of US Soccer and CONCACAF. But as with all rumors, nothing is official until it’s actually been announced as official by all of the parties involved. And while beIN Sports’ Phil Schoen seems rather confident in the tournament actually being hosted in the States, USSF President Sunil Gulati has already rebuffed the rumor as not “yet” agreed to. Key word being “yet”.
My guess? It’s going to happen, at least once all of the wrinkles in the planning are ironed out, even it’s not the best scenario for all parties involved.
With the Premier League season entering the final stretch, just about every match has taken on some sort of importance, either contributing to the title race, the fight to make the top four and/or the relegation scrap. And this weekend’s matches most definitely checked all of those boxes, meaning Jeremy and I had a lot of games to offer up our opinions on. Of course, there was also MLS “Rivalry Week” to contend with, including a thrilling Cascadia Cup tie between the Timbers and Sounders and a Trillium Cup match up between the conference-leading Crew and big spending Toronto. And let’s not forget about last midweek’s USA-Mexico game and this midweek’s Champions League matches that will also need to be chewed upon. You’ll get all that and more on the latest episode of the WSOTP Pod.
It’s been ages since my last links round up piece — okay, so it’s just been over a month. But a month can seem like ages in a house with an infant. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I needed to get this latest Ten Words or Less published before some of the links below become no longer relevant. And with the collection of links below spanning nearly the entire spectrum of professional soccer — from World Cup stories to the Premier League, from the Major Indoor Soccer League to USLPRO to Major League soccer, and from footie gear to soccer broadcasting — this is a links round up not to miss.
To new beginnings. – mlssoccer.com
Ian Darke stars in probably the best ESPN commercial ever. – youtube.com/espn
I really wish Chelsea would stop making kits I like. - footballfashion.org
The MISL is dissolving and it’s getting really ugly. – thebluestatement.com
BeIN Sport have made a vuvezela that changes the channel. – therichest.com
I am 100% behind making this the next MLS rebrand. – thegoatparade.com
Please don’t tell me this is a permanent home. – daytondutchlionsfc.com
I’m a non believer, but these football Tarot Cards rock. – designfootball.com
Some day… Nike will send me these, too. Some day. – theoriginalwinger.com
International football has become increasingly murky in recent years. In the good old days, it was simple: you played for the country you were born in, end of story.* But these days, citizenship and country of origin only tell half the story about why a guy plays for the national team he does.
Today we see Argentines playing for Italy (Pablo Osvaldo), Germans playing for Ghana (Kevin-Prince Boateng), a guy from the Central African Republic playing for France (Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa), and Brazilians playing for just about everyone. Thanks to international eligibility now being tied to your family history — as far back as both sets of grandparents — and residency, it allows someone like the talented Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj to choose from up to seven national teams: Albania (paternal and maternal grandparents), Belgium (where he grew up), Croatia (paternal grandparents), England (where he lives now), Turkey (maternal grandparents), Serbia (parents) and Kosovo (provided they ever get official FIFA sanctioning).
Predictably, this murkiness stirs a lot of emotions among supporters and the federations alike. Particularly in places like Europe, where race and ethnic origin is a prickly topic, fans seem to get up in arms anytime it’s even suggested that a foreign player be naturalized and brought in to the set up.
But it’s the trend these days, and everyone is doing it… even us here in the United States. Continue reading
For the third week running, Jeremy and I talk about new US national team recruit Julian Green — this pick the over/under for the minutes the German will see in this week’s US-Mexico game in Phoenix. But Green wasn’t the only topic of conversation on this week’s episode of the podcast. We talked of the misery the guys shared after both Spurs (nothing new) and Chelsea (definitely new) dropped vital points this weekend. The rest of last week’s Premier League action was also glanced over — including Moyes out banners being dragged around above Old Trafford and Liverpool going top — as is the weekend’s MLS play – with special attention paid to the Crew’s big last-gasp victory over Seattle.
After yet another obliteration at the weekend, I think I’ve had enough.
To be fair, I bought into the propaganda this past summer. I wanted to believe that selling off our most valuable asset for a gargantuan pile of dirty Spanish money which would then be used to retool a deeper team would strengthen our chances of a top four run. Chairman Daniel Levy, a man whose voracious business acumen had guided Spurs within a hair of conquering that task in the past two seasons — all while maintaining a profit no less — believed it would work. So why shouldn’t I?
He seemed to be backing our young, ambitious manager with a plan — André Villas-Boas — with significant funds to bring in all of the pieces. A striker of quality was finally bought. A creative midfield player came in that we’ve lacked since Modrić and van der Vaart departed for pastures greener. Danny Rose and Andros Townsend were recalled after successful loans. And on top of further midfield and defensive reinforcements being purchased, the club also went and splurged on a young Argentine starlet who had the potential to make us all forget about the Welshman.
It all seemed the perfect plan… until the horrid results started piling up.
A 0-3 home loss to the lowly Hammers in October got things started. A 0-6 battering at the hands of Manchester City at the Lane was quickly followed by a 0-5 slaughtering at home by Liverpool just a few weeks later in mid December. The later loss was enough to see Villas-Boas’ head roll, despite his club record points tally from the season before. His replacement, youth team coach Tim Sherwood, arrived with a deceptive string of improved results. But another murdering by City at the Etihad came in January, that time a 1-5 scoreline. Chelsea put us to the sword a few weeks back at Stamford Bridge with a 0-4 loss. And now another humbling at Liverpool this past weekend is almost enough to make me forget about three separate losses to Arsenal this season.
These were blowout losses to the teams we were supposed to compete directly with this season. We supposedly share their ambition, or at least that’s the story we’ve been sold. Now Spurs sit perilously close to mediocrity again, the place we’ve tried so hard to escape over the past ten years.
I didn’t sign up for mid-table finishes, lame duck managers or under-performing, over-priced players pissing away my glory. My friends all get to be frustrated over missing out on trophies, while I sit here miserable because Spurs can’t even win the so-called “4th place trophy”. It’s like the club don’t even care that laughter rains down on me from friends and complete strangers each weekend at the pub. The mocking text messages are just the icing on the cake. Meanwhile, Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis and the rest of their ENIC pals are more than content to line their pockets with yearly profits as Spurs yo-yo between periods of relevancy and the fan base loses their minds.
So since they’ve given up on me, I’m giving up on Spurs. Twenty years of support is a long enough time to give a club to turn the corner.
I want a club that has some sort of stability; a club that will stand by their man even when results aren’t quite there. As long as the promise of future success is there, I can live with the continuity. Supposedly that’s what AVB offered Tottenham, but the club clearly weren’t convinced considering how quickly they dispatched of him and his “long-term” philosophy.
I want a club that has a defined playing style and an ethos committed to attractive football. Spurs’ long-standing tradition of playing swashbuckling offensive football was one of the many reasons I originally fell for the team. But being on the receiving end of frequent shellackings like they have been this year shows that philosophy has also gone out the window.
I want a club that achieves something more than mediocrity and that challenges for titles. Regular Champions League football doesn’t seem like too much to ask for, does it? One deep run into the competition a few years back and a couple narrow misses on the tournament aren’t enough to pacify me. Even if we don’t always win those trophies, I need to at least know that we’re competing regularly.
I want to celebrate victories with my fellow fans at the bar and for once not be in the minority. At best, I’m one of just a handful of Tottenham Hotspur supporters at most pubs I frequent. Most times I’m the only one. But even in the times that I do stumble across other forsaken souls who follow the Lillywhites, everyone is still laughing at us for doing so.
Spurs can’t give me any of that, and that’s been clearly evident this season.
So I’m jumping the ship before it sinks. And I’ll climb on one that’s more capable of delivering those needs.
It shouldn’t be too hard to find a club with a long-term manager, a defined offensive playing style and that regularly competes in the highest of competitions and a large number of supporters here in the States. Right?
Come to think of it, there’s a club that is just a short drive down the road from White Hart Lane in North London that checks all of those boxes. They might be Spurs’ biggest rivals, but if Sol Campbell can make the jump from one side to another… why can’t I?
Because like I said earlier, I’ve had enough. And the grass on the other side of the fence looks at least slightly greener.