getting to know your #MLSAllStar opponents: tottenham hotspur

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WSOTP - Blog - WSOTP Tottenham Intro.fwTonight marks the Major League Soccer’s version of the mid-summer classic, the 2015 MLS All Star Game. Some think it’s pointless, others find it a good bit of fun to highlight the league’s growing profile and star power. And to be honest, neither camp is wrong. But it’s an annual tradition many of us have grown to accept and — gasp! — possibly even enjoy.

Unlike most other American professional leagues, the East versus West format was officially ditched back in 2005 when the league started inviting European club sides to take on the league’s best. Since then we’ve seen some of the biggest names in world football line up against a selection of MLS’ biggest stars: Bayern Munich, Celtic, Chelsea (twice), Everton, Fulham, Manchester United (twice), Roma and West Ham United.

And this year, it’s the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur FC that were invited to face the best of MLS at Colorado Rapids’ Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

For those of you who have followed me for any length of time, you’re probably well aware of my affinity for Spurs. For those who weren’t, I started following the club in 1994 after they signed current US coach Jurgen Klinsmann. But like most American fans of European teams, outside of a trip to White Hart Lane for the opening day of the 2004/2005 season, opportunities for me to watch Spurs live and in person have been few and far between.

So when it was announced my beloved Spurs would be this year’s opponents, my attendance was already almost a guarantee. Then a friend in Denver offered for me to crash at his place and borrow his car. Then my some of the good folks over at Adidas were kind enough to spot me some tickets.

That was enough to seal it.

So my wife, daughter and I hoped a plane on Sunday from Cincinnati to Denver, and the three of us have spent the week enjoying Denver while attending various All Star Game and Tottenham festivities around town.

But then something dawned on me while I was out last night attending some Spurs events: not everyone knows Spurs like me.

While many American soccer fans were probably familiar with the stars on display for recent All Star opponents, Spurs aren’t exactly a club full of household names — at least here in the US, that is. And since many don’t really know Spurs, who better to introduce the team than a guy who has followed them for 21 years?

So to help get you up to speed for tonight’s game, I’ve taken the time to break down Tottenham as a community, club and team.

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weight off their shoulders

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Abby Wambach Celebrates

Legacy and expectations are tough companions, particularly so during the pressure cooker that is a World Cup.

Ask anyone on the US Women’s National Team, and I’m sure they’d agree. Living up to the prior greatness of US teams of the past is a heavy burden, one that’s taken a long, tedious 16 years to fully realize.

It’s not like these are a group of push overs or anything either. Morgan, Rapinoe, Solo, Wambach and company represent one of the most talented core of players the American women’s program has ever had at their disposal at one time. And even if they’re not the most talented, they at least take the crown as the “most marketable” group the US women have ever had.

Yet even for names of their stature, the glory achieved 1991 and 1999 still loomed large and proved exceptionally difficult to replicate. But why?

The aforementioned legacy issues obviously play a part. Hamm, Akers and Lilly are giants of the game. Too, winning two World Cups means you’re expected to win every World Cup. Mediocrity is something that American women’s soccer fans — and sponsors for that matter — tolerate very well. And while it’s hard to call finishing at least third in every World Cup since ’99 “mediocre”, as famous American Ricky Bobby is known to say, if you’re not first, you’re last. 

But high expectations coupled with the gut wrenching loss to Japan in the final of the 2011 World Cup; that’s a tricky combination. And it was clear that approaching Sunday’s 2015 Final, the insecurities from each were still very much at play. Sure, the girls had an Olympic gold medal to console themselves with after having their hearts ripped out four years ago. But as anyone who knows half a thing about soccer will tell you, there’s really no substitute to hoisting the World Cup trophy.

However, it wasn’t just those feelings that had me doubting anyone that named the US as a favorite prior to the blowout they dished out to Japan on Sunday.

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there’s more than one way to skin a cat

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I’ll start this by saying I know this post is going to inspire some ire. It will be taken the wrong way. Some will take it personally, even though that’s not my intention. Angry emails will be received, my mentions will see the same, and I’ll probably have to tweet out another 5000 words on Twitter to defend my intentions. Suffice to say, I know what I’m getting myself into.

What exactly is it that I’m about to get on about that requires such an opening?

My growing annoyance with the ever-increasing childish tendencies of American soccer supporters groups, that’s what.

Now, that’s a pretty broad brush stroke I just painted with: I’m well aware that not all supporters groups or supporters group members are bad apples. So when I mentioned earlier that some are likely to take this personally, if you already feel like I’m attacking you, take a deep breath and give me a minute. I might not be talking about you or your group specifically at all. I could be, but it’s statistically not likely. In truth, most of you are great. But some of you are annoying as all hell. Read on to learn on which side of the divide you fall.

Also, before I get too far into this, let me also dispel any thoughts of me being against supporters groups on the whole. I’m not. I’m actually a bandana-brandishing member of the American Outlaws — Chapter 154 in Dayton, Ohio — and a card-carrying member of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

In fact, I mostly love what supporters groups bring to American soccer: energy, passion and some absolutely fantastic human beings. The fanfare they provide makes for great atmosphere, and has been one of the largest contributors to the vastly improved match day experience at American professional soccer games.

But I mostly love that from afar. While I have plenty of close friends and acquaintances in supporters groups who I love to catch up with at the pre-match tailgate and post-match at the pub, I usually keep my distance from the actual supporters’ sections in the stadiums themselves.

Again, this isn’t because I dislike what those sections have going on — it’s just not how I personally like to take in a match.

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revealed: USL in Cincinnati

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WSOTP - Blog - Cincinnati USL.fw

Late last night — or early this morning, depending on how you want to look at it — some seismic news shook the Cincinnati soccer scene. As revealed by good friend Chad Hollingsworth from Scratching the Pitch, full-fledged professional soccer would be returning to the Queen City in the form of a new USL franchise.

No, this isn’t the long rumored move of the Dayton Dutch Lions to Cincinnati. Nor is it the USL PDL’s Cincinnati Dutch Lions stepping up a level in the ladder, either. I’ve also received confirmation that there is zero involvement from the already established Cincinnati Saints of the NPSL. This is a brand, spanking new club — admittedly with some loose ties to the Dutch Lions organization.

So who is this new club, where did they come from, and how this all come to be?

Word of a new USL franchise first came across my desk back in December of 2014, and I’ve been chasing information on it ever since. Admittedly, extruding any sort of information on the topic proved extremely difficult. Wrong paths were followed. Dead ends were discovered. Red herrings were hooked. But the wet weather of the last month has finally yielded spring flowers.

Let’s start with what we already know.

As Chad disclosed, the new Cincinnati USL club will be feature an ownership group fronted by Jeff Berding. He’s spent the last 17 years working for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, currently holding the title of Director of Sales and Public Affairs.

Jeff’s ties to Cincinnati run deeper than just his role with the Bengals. He attended the same high school as myself, graduating from Cincinnati St. Xavier in 1985. Afterward, he attended Xavier University. Berding also spent nearly five years as an elected official, serving as a Cincinnati City Councilman from 2005 to 20011.

As for his ties to soccer, Mr. Berding currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors of local youth soccer power, Kings-Hammer FC. For those who have followed the USL for some time, that club name may ring a very interesting bell. It’s the lovechild of a “joint-venture” between local youth side Hammer FC and former local USL Second Division franchise, the Cincinnati Kings. While that professional club may have gone belly up in 2009, the youth club has continued to thrive. Additionally, Berding’s LinkedIn profile indicated he’s also spent a spell on the sidelines as a youth coach for local parochial school St. Ursula Villa, too.

Also mentioned in the Scratching the Pitch article was another interesting soccer relationship: Berding served on the board of the Cincinnati Dutch Lions. More on that later.

While my sources confirmed the exact same information as what Chad wrote, aside from knowing that the team plans to begin play in Spring of 2016, that’s all we knew definitively about the prospects of USL coming to Cincinnati.

That wasn’t enough for me. So I, along with WSOTP Podcast partner Jeremy Lance, dug a bit deeper.

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promotion & relegation survey: personal reflections

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WSOTP - Blog - Promotion & Relegation Reflections.fw

This is the third and final article in a three part series based on the results from a survey that ran on the site in December and January that looked to gauge the actual fan and owner interest in the implementation of Promotion & Relegation in the US and Canadian professional soccer pyramids. 

Read part one: Supporter Results  |  Read part two: Owner Results

I have to admit that making the decision on whether or not to write these series of articles was not any easy one. The debate I’ve held with myself on covering the subject of promotion and relegation stretches back for the better part of a year.

Deep down, I knew that doing so would bring me a windfall of grief. My words would be twisted, my intentions distorted and my mind numbed by the incessant drumming of some of the debate’s largest figureheads. All that happened well before I’d ever written a word on the topic in this space, so it was destined to be worse once I voluntarily jumped in with the sharks.

It has been.

But if I could imagine a world in a vacuum where one could talk about pro/rel in the US and Canada without igniting a firestorm and one’s name being dragged through the mud, it’s a fascinating topic to discuss.

Why?

Set aside the incendiary nature of the debate as it currently stands. A comparison of the positives and the negatives of promotion and relegation’s implementation against the pros and cons of the current system requires so many different layers of thought. Logistics, finances, structure, migration path, legalities, desires — all of these are key elements in the conversation. And when one system appears to be beneficial for one of those factors, it could be a huge detriment to one of the others.

I love reasonable, level-headed and cordial debates like these. And it’s for that reason that I considered writing about promotion and relegation long before I ever knew of anyone named Ted — I just never got around to it, other than stringing together the occasional set of 140 character opinions on Twitter.

But it’s probably for the best that I didn’t. Because the reality is, it’s morphed into a ridiculously combustible topic here.

It’s a conversation that features extremely passionate group(s) of supporters and opponents. Both sets seem to be growing, but so too are those that have grown annoyed with the discussion and its tone. The mere mention of the phrase “pro/rel” on Twitter can literally set off a never-ending stream of notifications on your cell phone for the rest of the night. It’s hard to not get caught up in it — particularly for someone like me whose passion for the game pretty much defines their existence.

Unfortunately, in all of the mudslinging that goes down, there’s lots of hyperbole and opinion that’s tossed in alongside it like they’re undisputed facts.

That drives me bonkers.

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But if you’re going to broadcast yours and attack others unsolicited for theirs, you damn well better have more than a “belief” to back it up. To be honest, soccer is too important to me as a human being to allow potentially incredibly influential popular opinion to be established without it having some solid data to lean against.

That’s the reason I ran these surveys in the first place: to establish the most comprehensive data set on the opinions and desires of two of North American soccer’s biggest constituents. I didn’t care where the numbers fell one way or another — I just want something to refer back to other than hunches and speculation.

So with all that said, what is my opinion on the topic of promotion and relegation here in the US and Canada? What are my reasons for those thoughts? And did my thoughts change after seeing the results of the surveys?

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go big or go home

harkes.fw

It’s been over two and half months since Wrong Side of the Pond helped to break the news of a return to Cincinnati for the United Soccer League, but things have remained eerily quiet from the FC Cincinnati camp — at least in official capacities.

For those still doubting the still-not-announced club’s existence, there’s really no doubt that the team is indeed coming.

Members of their staff have been spotted around town, most notably at American Outlaws Cincinnati events at Molly Malone’s in Covington, but I also spotted them at the Women’s World Cup Final watch party on Fountain Square while we were recording our podcast on stage. They’ve also already been handing out season tickets to those pictured in their gear. There have been rumored promotional shoots, both in studio and on-site at UC’s Nippert Stadium. And a quasi-announcement was even made on local sports anchor Ken Broo’s television show saying they would actually be playing at Nippert — though a recording of that has proven elusive.

Too, the radio silence in the lead up to my article in May also has also come to an end. I’ve heard from two different front office staff members, both of whom have FC Cincinnati email addresses. And I’ve also been in touch with the PR company that’s handling the launch and media relations.

Yet despite all of this, an official press conference announcement still has not been scheduled — though two rumored dates have reportedly been pushed back.

So why the delay?

The official line from club contacts is that travel schedules haven’t aligned properly to make an announcement yet, though as recently as late June the club were still waiting for “official paperwork to be signed”. There’s also been speculation that a federal corruption and bribery investigation into rumored FCC front man Jeff Berding could have caused some of the delays. And there’s been the additional thought that the club are waiting to make a marquee signing to help make for a bigger splash.

And if my sources are correct, there could be some truth in the latter of those three.

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hulk hogan, rio ferdinand and adrey arshavin walk into a bar…

Hulk.fw

Despite being a child of the 80’s, I’ve never really gotten into professional wrestling. I never understood the appeal of watching a sport that was completely fabricated and full of ridiculous characters. If that’s your bag, no harm meant — it’s just not for me.

And in the five-plus years I’ve been writing in this space, I never once imagined that I’d be writing about Hulk Hogan either.

But life is funny sometimes.

If you hadn’t heard — I hadn’t — long-time WWE star Hulk Hogan has been in the news lately for a racist tirade caught in a recently sex tape that was leaked online. The fallout from the slurs has been swift and strong, including all references to Hogan being removed from the WWE website and his name being removed from the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. And all of this comes on the heals of a long checkered history involving abuse charges and being alienated from his kids.

Obviously desperate to resuscitate his flagging career, the Hulk — not to be confused with the Brazilian attacker plying his trade for not-at-all racist Zenit St. Petersburg — has taken to social media to not only apologize, but also attempt to explain how not racist he actually is.

That always goes really well, doesn’t it?

In his urgent efforts to prove this, Hogan has started retweeting anyone who shows him signs of support. In particular, if someone of a minority background posts a picture, he’s been especially keen to let his followers know that he’s got fans of every color. Here’s a screen shot of two of those RT’s…

WSOTP - Hulk Hogan 5.fw

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the WSOTP fantasy premier league is back… again

WSOTP - Blog - Premieraliga 15-16.fwThere are some of you out there who have been very eager to learn if Wrong Side of the Pond will once again be hosting a Fantasy Premier League competition again for the 2015/2015 season.

Why people are so eager to know if we’ll form a league again, I can only speculate. Maybe it’s because you feel like attempting to best “real life pundits”, though that’s not hard when you join a league where the pundits — myself and Pondcast co-host Jeremy — finished in mid-table in 2014/2015. So, I’m just going to presume you’re all here because you really want a free shirt from the WSOTP Shop.

Well, we won’t disappoint… of course the league is coming back again this year. The third edition of the WSOTP Premieraliga Fantasy Premier League is back, and we’ll once again be awarding the winners prizes from our WSOTP Shop.

Yes, you read that correctly. I said winners, as in the plural. But how can that be?

Just as with MLS, we’re hosting both a traditional and head-to-head leagues. Which means we could potentially have two different winners. If one person wins both, they’ll get both prizes.

All that explained, its high time you get signed up for both the leagues. And here’s how you’ll do so:

  1. Head on over to the official Premier League site and create you team, or restore your team from last year.
  2. Once your account is created, click the “Leagues” tab and enter the code(s) below:
    1. Classic WSOTP Premieraliga: enter code “421971-109957″ or click here ot join automatically.
    2. Head-to-Head WSOTP Premieraliga: enter code “285492-198195″, or click here join automatically.
  3. Pick your team before the season kicks off on Saturday, August 8th.

You’ve got exactly two weeks get yourself all set up, but better to be early than late in the world of fantasy.

And FYI, if you win — make sure to reach out to us. We’ll post who the winner is on Social Media, but we won’t chase you down! Believe it or not, our winner from 2014/2015 still hasn’t claimed their shirt. So if you do win, shoot us an email to contact@wrongsideofthepond.com and let us know your selection(s) and a shipping address. If you have any additional questions, hit us up.

i want: crew sc new era cap by undefeated

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Crew SC Undefeated New Era Hat.fw

I’ve been a Columbus Crew SC supporter since the dawn of MLS twenty years ago. I’ve been a hat enthusiast for even longer. But despite my love for both caps and the Crew, and two decades of time to produce one, I’ve never once managed to find a headpiece that’s married the two together in a way that’s deserving of gracing the top of my (large) head. That is until now. Designer James Bond — best known for his brand UNDEFEATED — partnered with MLS to release a limited edition capsule of hats to celebrate the league’s 20th season. I was insanely jealous when Bond released a hat just for the Galaxy last year, so to say I was stoked to see this all black everything snap-back for my own Crew SC is understatement. Though admittedly, the rest of the line is pretty sick, too.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  mlsstore.com 

pic of the week 7/20-7/26

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FIFA's Sepp Blatter Raining Dollars

Even though we’re literally just over 10 hours into the week, the soccer gods have been kind and already gifted us the latest “Pic of the Week”. I don’t need the rest of the week to make that call, as there is no possible way a picture will be produced that bests the one above. To be honest, it’s quite possible the entirety of the remainder of 2015 will be unable to best this one.

So what exactly is it that we’re seeing?

Though this might surprise you, it’s not actually a candid photo of FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s morning shower routine. Instead, it’s a picture of the “outgoing” FIFA supremo being showered in fake money thrown at him by British comedian Lee Nelson during a press conference this morning. Want to see a video of it? Sure you do. Nelson interrupted the presser after sneaking into the building, announcing himself as a member of North Korean World Cup delegation before making it rain on King Sepp. But as for Blatter’s look of disappointment? That can easily be explained by the fact that they were just $1 bills instead of $100’s.

Once things were cleaned up and Sepp returned to the stage, he did announce that he would not be standing for re-election in the February 27th Extraordinary Elective Congress. However, no word on whether he kept the bills or not — though I think it’s safe to assume he did.

#forcincy match poster 6: saints vs indiana fire

 

WSOTP - Cincinnati Saints Matchday Poster 6

Well, the end of the National Premier Soccer League 2015 season is imminent, and this coming Saturday’s game against the Indiana Fire Juniors will be the Cincinnati Saints’ final home date of the campaign (though a rescheduled home friendly against the Columbus Crew SC College Program will still take place on Saturday, July 25th at 7:00pm).

And as such, that means that I still had one last match poster to put together for the campaign as well. There were lots of potential designs on the table, and plenty of places to draw inspiration from. The Fire Juniors aren’t a particularly well-supported team, but I’ve tried to avoid picking on teams so far, and I’m not going to start with my last one either. I also debated a “Final Countdown” clock seeing as how this was the Saints’ last home game, but that met the chopping block, too.

Ultimately looked to the nickname of our opposition once again to draw as the primary inspiration for the design. “Put Out the Fire” is a common chant yelled at Indiana’s parent club in Chicago, so I assumed that means we could apply it to them, too. And what better way would there be to convey that message than to invoke the spirit of the famous Smokey Bear? A slight modification to his trademark phrase let’s us know that he too wants to help extinguish the flames of the Saints’ foes this weekend.

This being the last league home match of the season, that also means this will also be the last time the WSOTP Podcast team will be in the commentary booth for the NPSL season. So if you can’t join us at Withrow tomorrow, be sure to catch our Live Stream broadcast available on our Match Commentary page.

And as always, if you want to see all my 2015 Cincinnati Saints match day poster designs from the season long series, click here.

a more attractive proposal

New Tottenham NFL Stadium

Much has been made of an announcement Tottenham Hotspur Football Club made last week. No, not the announcement capture of Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid, though that could prove an impact signing in the seasons to come.

No, it was that other announcement that caused the biggest stir: that Tottenham had updated their new stadium designs to accommodate two National Football League games a season for the next ten years.

Predictably, many have rallied against the deal.

Those in the “Against Modern Football” movement loved to hate on this deal. There’s the anti-American movement, too. Some of my American brethren with anti-NFL stances thought such a deal would tarnish the club’s legacy. And there were even some concerns expressed that Tottenham Hotspur FC would even remain the primary tenant of the stadium. To be fair, there are a lot of valid concerns about the deal overall — but its here to stay whether we want it or not.

Not everyone, however, is in the “against” camp.

Many — myself included – feel this is nothing but good for the club, provided the deal is primarily designed to have additional revenue earned through hosting two NFL games a season funneled back into the team. The NFL was going to pick a home in London eventually, and its forward thinking of Spurs to put themselves in a position to benefit from that. In a league where multiple teams will soon play in sizable new homes with increased match day revenues, alternative streams of funding will be imperative to continue to compete and improve.

But there is one aspect of the updated stadium plans that I’ve not really heard much talk about.

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ten words or less #111

So 2015 has been the summer of soccer to end all summers of soccer. There has been at least one — and often times two or three — “major” international tournament(s) going on each week, ranging from the less-prominent youth World Cups and Gold Cups to the more prestigious Women’s World Cup and Copa America. Those fell on top of all of the normal domestic action still on going and the ever-moving river of transfer news that consumes every summer. And to think we’ve not even reached the summer tune-up friendlies all of the European sides will be playing out around the globe in the weeks to come.

I’m not going to lie: it’s been exhausting to cover. As you’ve probably noticed, between watching all of the action, my commentating gig with the Cincinnati Saints, designing match posters and emceeing watch parties with thousands of people — finding time to write hasn’t exactly been easy. Not to mention job, home and family responsibilities. I’m making excuses here, but I honestly have missed writing.

So with that in mind, I’ve been hard at work on a number of stories both local, national and international. And hopefully you’ll end up seeing them in a timely fashion, too. But in the mean time, I’ll attempt to appease you with some of my favorite links from the last week or so.

Pathetic… but predictable. – espnfc.com

You can’t do anything by “lol” anymore. – bbc.com

So maybe MLS could be investing it’s money more wisely. – topdrawersoccer.com

The outcome here could seriously shake up US youth soccer. – vice.com

Adios, San Iker. Everyone will forgive you for the tears. – youtube.com

Tevez heading back to Boca is kind of awesome.tu – juventus.com

All of the Stoke jokes must have finally got to Shaqiri. – telegraph.co.uk

May as well get rid of it if Messi doesn’t want it. – mundodeportivo.com
(WARNING: Spanish)

Absolutely love. Probably want. – football-shirts.co.uk

Typical English “supporters” being “nice” to a former player.
– manchestereveningnews.co.uk