With all that soccer action going on over the weekend, sometimes it’s tough to keep track of everything. That’s why we’re here to help. Every Monday we’ll tell you what we learned over the soccer weekend. Now when you head to the water cooler, you’ll be armed with plenty of information to impress your co-workers.
By H. Jose Bosch
It’s an oft-used cliché in soccer: you can’t win a championship in the first months of the season. But you can lose one.
In a single-table format, the cliché makes sense. Dropping points sometimes matters more than earning them. So when Manchester City curb stomped Manchester United 4-1 (and it could’ve been 6-1), there is a natural reaction to think “these dropped points will cost United the title.”
Manchester United has supposedly put itself into a bit of a hole.
Well, not exactly. United still has a lot of problems, namely a weak back line and a midfield with no bite. But we didn’t need this drubbing to know that. We all knew that going in. And as terrible as the team looked on Sunday, it has also looked like world-beaters at times. And just look at the team United lost to on Sunday. Manchester City has lost to Cardiff and drew with Stoke. They’ve looked bad, too.
This match will likely mean nothing in the season’s final standings. But it was still fun to watch the defending league champions look so pedestrian. It’s one of the many positives of being a sports fan whose team isn’t a perennial winner: basking in the pain of others’ failures.
So, while this match doesn’t change much in the league title race (I still think Manchester United finishes in a Champions League spot), it only creates more headaches for David Moyes. He’s now lost to both of his club’s biggest rivals (Liverpool and City) and drew with Chelsea at home.
The growing pains of replacing Alex Ferguson are going to last a lot longer than the first few months of the season. Hopefully United fans are beginning to prepare for this.
Di Canio out
Normally the firing of the manager of a bottom-of-the-table club means nothing to an American soccer fans. But with Paolo Di Canio now gone at Sunderland, the question most American soccer fans will have is, “How will this affect Jozy Altidore?”
Prior to his firing, Di Canio had high praise for the American forward. And just last week, Di Canio spoke about the partnership between Altidore and Sunderland’s 2012 leading scorer Steven Fletcher. The Italian manager believed the team’s success would be dependent on that partnership continuing to grow as Fletcher came back from injury and got into match shape.
Now that Di Canio is gone, will a new manager be as reliant on the Fletcher-Altidore partnership? There’s no use in speculating until a new manager has been named. But a relegation battle has never had more meaning to an American soccer fan as this one. Hopefully Altidore can make his name as the player who saved an EPL team from the dreaded drop.
Red Bulls winning hardware thanks to Tucson?
Goalkeeper Luis Robles, who grew up playing for the Tucson Soccer Academy, has been on fire for the New York Red Bulls. He has given up just two goals in his last four starts, all wins for the Red Bulls. He could wind up having a great finish to what has otherwise been an up-and-down season.
The last four matches of the year will be major tests for the former Tucson youth soccer player. New York will play Seattle (second in MLS and first in the Western Conference) and then three matches against clubs desperate for a playoff spot (New England, Houston and Chicago). There is no easy match between now and the end of the season.
But if Robles keeps up his current form, not only can New York lift its first trophy in the club’s history, they may be a force in the MLS playoffs, where getting hot at the right time is just as important as your form during the season.
If you haven’t been following the league closely, at least watch the local soccer star try to guide his club toward the top of the league table. You won’t regret it.
Don’t expect to win the 2014 World Cup
The U.S. Men’s National Team has made great strides under the leadership of Jurgen Klinsmann. But if you think the U.S. has a shot at winning the World Cup in 2014, you’re not being very realistic.
And that’s according to Klinsmann himself.
In an interview during the halftime of Los Angeles-Seattle on Saturday night, Klinsmann responded to the question of whether or not the U.S. has a chance at winning the 2014 World Cup: “No, you’ve got to be realistic,” he said. “I mean, I think we have the potential, obviously like in the past, to get out of the group stage – it depends, obviously, who you have in your group – and then it’s all down to 50-50 games. Then you give the real battles in the knockout stage.”
While his response is a bit more blunt than your standard coach speak, Klinsmann does have a point. The U.S. is still not at a point where it can expect to win the World Cup. But anything can happen in the knockout stages and sometimes countries just draw the right teams.
What is important is that the U.S. continues to improve the way it has been so that if and/or when it gets a favorable draw, the team can take advantage. There is no chance the team can realistically win the World Cup. There are too many great countries ahead of them that could win.
But there are plenty of reasons to believe the team can make a memorable impact in the tournament.