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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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

ten words or less #110

Well, it’s fair to say a bombshell was dropped on world soccer yesterday. I’d hoped to get out a full-length piece on it last night or today, but the rapid developments with regards to the FIFA corruption scandal has made it difficult to stay on top of and write accurately. So I’m giving it another day or so to fester before unleashing the dragon. And while you wait, there have been hundreds of miles worth of online column space already written on the topic — so you won’t be wanting for reading material.

To hold you over, as usual, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite links from the past week or so. The first four of which are directly related to the ongoing firestorm. So enjoy reading the selections below while the world outside burns.

FIFA meets the long, bad ass arm of American law. – justice.gov

How to boycott FIFA without hurting soccer. – independent.co.uk

Sponsoring the World Cup is an endorsement of their practices. – theverge.com

The NASL is in some serious shit. – northernpitch.com

Adidas “smart ball” teaches you to bend it like Beckham. – androidpolice.com

The Minnesota MLS stadium situation is… tricky. – vice.com

Snow skiing plus soccer? Super impressed… if this is real. – youtube.com

An insurance plan to protect against missing the Champions League? – bloomberg.com

Beer and soccer. You don’t need to know more. – soccerbible.com
Thanks to my man @MPFaessler for pointing this out.

Wambach’s turf war paying dividends, just not how you’d expect. – soccerwire.com

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 39

WSOTP - Blog - Season 2 Episode 39.fw

With no side relegated during the next to last round of the season in the Premier League, that means the race for the final drop spot remains a big talking point on this week’s #Pondcast. Listen in as D.J. and Jeremy go through the scenarios each of Hull, Sunderland and Newcastle need to stave off, as well as wax poetic on Steven Gerrard’s last game at Anfield. Also on this week’s episode are reflections on USL’s return to Cincinnati — from not only ourselves, but also listeners too — a look back at the second legs of the Champions League semifinals, and off the field issues overshadowing much needed wins for two MLS sides, and much more.

ALSO A FAVOR TO ASK: On next week’s podcast, the guys will be eulogizing their respective clubs’ seasons… and we want to hear your eulogies for your own clubs! Just as with any questions or topics you want us to cover next week, shoot your’s to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit us up on social media via links at the bottom of the page.

And of course, don’t forget to subscribe below to automatically receive new episodes on your favorite mobile device.

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 38

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 38

The fates of two Premier League sides were decided this past weekend, with Burnley and QPR both officially relegated. And a similar fate awaits one more, but who that is — Sunderland, Hull City, maybe even Newcastle? — remains to be seen. And in Episode 38 of the #Pondcast, the guys delve into those sides and their remaining fixtures. Also on this week, our thoughts on the first legs of the Champions League semifinals, the upcoming FIFA elections, the first ever MLS New York City Derby (or whatever you want to call it), and much much more.

Have a question that you want to ask on next week’s podcast, reach out to us by email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit the social media links at the bottom of the page. And subscribe below to automatically receive new episodes on your favorite mobile device.

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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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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 37

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 37

Since we last recorded, league champions have been crowned in the upper two levels of the English pyramid, and we took time in this week’s episode of the #Pondcast to discuss the incredible seasons by both favorites’ Chelsea and the underdogs’ AFC Bournemouth. But while the tops of the tables were interesting, the bottoms of them are even more fascinating. And while the bottom three may be locked in the Championship, there’s a lot left to be settled in the Premier League. There was, of course, still plenty of time left for the domestic side of things too — including a Crew collapse on the road, Montreal’s collapse in the CONCACAF Champions League — and our usual weekly segments.

Have a question that you want to ask on next week’s podcast, reach out to us by email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit the social media links at the bottom of the page. And subscribe below to automatically receive new episodes on your favorite mobile device.

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 36

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 36

Yeah, the EPL races are getting tighter and tighter — well, maybe not at the top of the bale — and we’ll be sure to get into those. There was also Champions League action near and afar, and that’s on the agenda for this #Pondcast, too. There’s plenty of Major League Soccer action for us to get into as well, and that’s where we’ll be spending most of our time on this week’s episode. So to really dial in on the domestic league action, we welcomed on domestic soccer aficionado and Sporting KC fan Mike McGrew, perhaps better known through his Twitter handle @CincySportingto talk all things MLS. Yes, you’ll get all the other usual segments you know and love too, and lots more.

If you have a question or topic for next week’s podcast, reach out to us by email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit the social media links at the bottom of the page. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe to automatically receive new episodes on your favorite mobile device.

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ten words or less #109

While things on the writing front haven’t completely picked back up yet — I’ve had a few original pieces pop out of my brain recently — things on the design front have really picked up a bit. In addition to the recently announced Saints Matchday Poster project eating up gobs of my time, there’s also been work on the Women’s World Cup front too with at least one new shirt design and a Canada 2015 wall chart in progress too. So while I’m stoked to be working on all of that stuff, I wanted to apologize for the continued low output on the written side of things.

And as I normally do in these situations, I’ll attempt to bribe you to stick around a bit longer with some of my favorite links from the last week or so in the world of football. It’s working, right?

Other people think we’re worth following on Twitter! – northernpitch.com

Struggling with the end of the season? Here’s why. – theguardian.com

Heineken’s brilliant way to “watch” football at work. – docs.google.com

Serie A needs to do something to increase interest again. – football-italia.net

In case you wondered, “urban” USMNT looks like this. –  hypebeast.com

So far, exploding the Red Bulls front office has worked. – si.com

Ohhhhh… so it’s their fault you bit them. Got it.  – dirtytackle.net

“Brilliant arrogance” defined. – telegraph.co.uk

Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!! – prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com

Are Portland Thorns the first “real” club in women’s football? – theguardian.com

all hands on deck

EDIT: I wrote this article in the lead up to the first leg of the 2014/2015 CONCACAF Champions League final, before Montreal marched into the sold out Azteca and amazingly scrapped a 1-1 draw against Club América. But tonight, as the Impact prepare to now host that same Goliath in front of 61,000 of their own fans, this article rings even more true. Give it a read — and be sure to tune in tonight on Fox Sports 2 at 8pm ET. 

If you hadn’t noticed, we’re currently at a pretty busy point in the annual professional world soccer calendar.

The European leagues are wrapping up, with Champions soon to be crowned, those doomed to relegation set go down, and various promotion processes all around. The UEFA Champions League semifinalists will be set after today’s final quarterfinal match ups, and by June 6th we’ll know the Kings of Europe. Latin American leagues are now in full swing. International breaks sporadically dot the calendar too, offering friendlies and qualifiers alike.

And that’s just all of the stuff going down abroad. Domestically, the top three tiers of the American soccer pyramid are now in action. The fourth division will start within the next month. US Open Cup kicks off in the next few weeks, too. And for the most part, things are going really, really well. Average attendance is up in all three top leagues, expansion sides are making a huge splash, and TV viewership numbers are up as well. Plus, the USSF is actually paying attention to their own FA Cup for once — hooray!

But even with all of that progress, there’s still work to be done. Compared to the other “big four” sports leagues, attendance isn’t near as steady in our professional soccer leagues. And on the TV front, non-World Cup games still pale in comparison. All that considered, and it’s easy to say we’re clearly still in a transitional stage from fringe to popular sport.

So what am I getting at?

I’ve written before about how it’s on us — the American soccer fan — to drag this sport to where we want it to be. If we want American soccer to succeed, to gain mainstream acceptance, we need to do everything we can to promote the game to those who aren’t yet indoctrinated. Drag people to games in person and at pubs, promise them a beer if that’s what a takes.

And as it turns out, tonight is one of those nights where we need you to do some promotion with us.

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