Lots going on in the soccer universe this past week, with publication of the latest UEFA financial report *gasp* the (rich got richer!), the MLS Draft (whoops, forgot “Super”), Ronaldinho retiring (again? Not even sure) and Don O Van un-retiring (again? Pretty sure), and the impending close of the January transfer window causing some clubs to go into desperation mode. The last of these will be the subject of some discussion in NEXT week’s blog – meaning a trigger warning for this post is not necessary for Arsenal and Chelsea fans
but before getting balls deep in the games coming up this weekend I am going to touch on one thing that I have thus far avoided in this space: the USSF presidential race.
One thing about this blog is that – among the tens of tens of loyal readers – it attracts a wide variety of fans. Some hardcore, others very casual, and still others who are just looking for tips on betting and could care less about the sport itself. This makes discussing a complex topic like the USSF prez race tough because it means striking a balance between providing enough info to be interesting to people who already follow the situation closely, while not going so far into the weeds as to bore or confuse the shit out of the rest of the group. So I’ll try to walk that tightrope, but if/when I inevitably fail, feel free to find me on twitter dot com if you have any questions that you – like all my exes – want to be left wholly unsatisfied about:
Anyway, the election takes place on February 10. There is a lot to wrap your head around, and there will be a LOT written about it between now and then. One problem is that everybody who is plugged in enough to offer an opinion on the race seems to have a vested (or at least rooting) interest in the outcome. Another is that articles you stumble across will be too long and dense for people to wanna read.
Fact #1: I have no dog in the fight and absolutely zero rooting interests besides wanting what is best for soccer in America.
Fact #2: If I had a nickel for every 3,000-word, lightly read think-piece about the 2018 USSF election I could buy the NASL and throw MLS in a locker simply by implementing promotion/relegation just to spite the SUM cartel.
So with all that in mind here it is: Barstool’s “UNOFFICIAL, UNBIASED GUIDE TO THE USSF PREZ ELECTION”… a short and snappy TL;DR cliff notes rundown of what you need to know:
(1) EIGHT NOMINEES: nine people declared, only eight of whom got enough “insider” nominations to qualify for the actual ballot (more on the non-qualifier in a moment).
(2) FOUR PRETENDERS: this does not diminish what Steve Gans, Michael Winograd, Paul Caligiuri and Hope Solo bring to the table, as each of them – in very different ways – have far more impressive resumes than you and me. However, based on talking to people and using my brain, most people paying attention have concluded that their chances of actually winning are exceedingly small, either because they didn’t have a strong enough constituency base from which to launch their campaign or due to other “flaws” – perceived or otherwise.
(3) FOUR CONTENDERS: let’s take a little closer look at the positives and negatives of Kathy Carter, Carlos Cordeiro, Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda…
KATHY CARTER – president of the SUM cartel
Pluses: Experienced manager who has had a hand in getting US soccer to where it is right now… also, she is a woman (which, like it or not, will be an advantage in the minds of some people)
Minuses: Experienced manager who has had a hand in getting US soccer to where it is right now… she is the embodiment of an “establishment” candidate at a time when having done things and knowing people is the ultimate strike against your record
CARLOS CORDEIRO – Sunil Gulati’s right-hand man (VP of USSF)
Pluses: Experienced manager who has had a hand in getting US soccer to where it is right now
Minuses: Experienced manager who has had a hand in getting US soccer to where it is right now… he is the embodiment of an “establishment” candidate at a time when having done things and knowing people is the ultimate strike against your record… also, he is not a woman (which, like it or not, will be a disadvantage in the minds of some people)
KYLE MARTINO – TV analyst and former USMNT player
Pluses: Knowledgeable “soccer person”; the one and ONLY (serious) candidate who has laid out – in significant detail – what his platform is, including a framework for helping push MLS towards accepting and implementing pro/rel by 2030… also, he has great hair
Minuses: Lack of management experience
ERIC WYNALDA – TV analyst, former USMNT player, erstwhile semi- and pro coach (often via via Skype), one-time fruit drink salesman and president/CEO of the Eric Wynalda Fan Club LLC
Pluses: Knowledgeable “soccer person”; very adept at making promises and cultivating worshippers among the tinfoil hat twitter crew that believes MLS and SUM are a cabal out to make money at the expense of the proletariat soccer community – most of whom, incidentally, became huge fans of the sport sometime in the last two to five years and are hopelessly confused as to why the US system is not as “good” as the systems in place in Europe and South America that have evolved over decades if not centuries.
Minuses: Lack of management experience; lack of commitment to some (but not all) previous jobs, which has led some people to question whether running for USSF prez is as much a vanity play as it is about pushing the sport forward [which along with his growing twitter army has led to Trump analogies]; misplaced obsession with idea that switching MLS over to the FIFA calendar (i.e. season running August to May) would be instantly and hugely beneficial [hint: it won’t]… also, he has a tendency to tweet like a tweenage girl
So there you have it. One thing to keep in mind: the USSF president does not have dictatorial powers and cannot implement sweeping changes simply with the wave of a wand, and will have even less “power” if – as has been mooted – a general manager position is created.
As for how things will shake out, despite what the Wynalda-loving twitter hoard would have you believe, Kathy Carter is probably the odds-on favorite at the moment, though the rather ridiculous voting system (parceled out among various constituencies with very little transparency about the entire process) means that it is anyone’s guess how things will ultimately pan out. E-Dubya’s campaign may be gaining a little more traction in recent weeks, but again, how much of that is legitimate momentum versus Russian twitter bot-generated hype is anybody’s guess.
And yes, it is possible I am being overly critical of Wynalda, who I do NOT necessarily dislike as a person – never even met the guy if we are being honest – but whose background and skillset lead me to believe he’d be better suited for a role like USMNT technical director rather than USSF president.
And let’s be serious, somebody needs to step up and fight back against the growing contingent of twitter eggs who have, in their little online echo chamber, already convinced themselves that electing anybody other than Wynalda will mean a “1984”-like dystopian future for US soccer. (I’m not the hero you want, but the hero you got – soorrey.) For real though, these people need to get a fucking grip. Soccer in the US has come a very LONG way in a very SHORT time, and anybody yelling and screaming online about the sport being a “mess” is full of shit – plain and simple.
Which brings us back to the ninth person to declare for the USSF prez election but who, alas, did not amass enough nominations to get on the ballot. Let’s check in and see how that feller is doing:
Yep. Sounds about right.
For the record, I have not pledged my support to any candidate at this point (not that I have any real sway of course), in part because I am waiting to learn more details about the platforms of several of them.
Now on to the weekend ahead…
– BAH GOD LIVAPOO DID IT! THEY SLAYED THE UNSLAYABLE BEAST!
Seriously though, that was the best (meaning a combination of high-quality and entertaining) midseason EPL game I have watched in YEARS… and I am not just saying that because I got progressively drunker on IPAs and endorphins while watching it (and least I don’t think so). Probably have to go back to the epic – and I do not use that word lightly – City/QPR game on the final day of the season that sealed the 2011-12 title for the Cityzens (over United no less) to find a game that gave me anywhere near as big a sportsboner as Liverpool/City. Poo striking first, City striking back, Poo dropping some big-time hammer blows to go up 4-1, and yet…
and – painfully predictably – City scoring two to make it a one-goal game in extra time…
I don’t even care if you are a Liverpool fan or not (City fans are excused), if you didn’t feel exactly like this when the final whistle blew then you need to take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself how and when your life went wrong:
As for the rest of the league:
– Arsenal is deader than dead
– Yet Stoke are somehow deadest
– Chelsea are out of sorts, in large part because Alvaro Morata forgot how to put a shot on net
– Everton got mollywhopped BUT – as I argued going into the game – Tottenham were simply a bad matchup for the Toffees so reading too far into it would be a mistake
– Burnley are suddenly playing like Burnley
– West Ham is BACK but for real this time – maybe
– My favorite commenters are the ones who are about to argue that United belong among the top three – if not top two – of the power rankings just because they beat up on a Stoke squad that would be in the relegation zone of the Championship at the moment. Okay guys, oooooookaaaaaaaay, I guess we’ll just ignore those three draws against Southampton, Burnley (both at home) and Lester. Okay.
Honorable mention: Chelsea, Lester
18. West Brom
Dishonorable mention: Southampton, Brighton
The surface-level explanation for Burnley’s recent woes is that they are “out of form” but the truth is that their form has been remarkably consistent all season, with the only difference being whether or not they finish one of the two (or at most three) good chances they get each game. Early on this season they were, recently they have not been. Simple as that. United is a little more complicated. Were wins over Stoke and Everton indicative of the club – with Paul Pogba back in the saddle – re-finding their form, or did the weaknesses of their opponents paper over continued deficiencies… I’d guesstimate it is 70/30 in favor of re-finding their form, but finding a way through Burnley‘s bunkered defenses is easier said than done. Tarkowski is not a great matchup for Lukaku but somehow, someway I think Dear Leader Jozay’s boys will find a way. United to win 1-0.
So you see, this is funny because it is not even remotely true, and I would HATE to be the team had to play City immediately after they got hung with their first domestic loss – especially after they got their asses handed to them for the first 85 minutes. Pray for Newcastle. City to win 3-0.
• BRIGHTON v CHELSEA: There is a serious negativity surrounding the Blues at the moment that one couldn’t help think may have contributed to the ugly performance against Norwich in the FA Cup replay on Wednesday that was marred by poor play, a ridiculous amount of diving, and red cards for Morata and Pedro. On the other hand, the Seagulls have not been playing all that well lately, and just lost 2-0 to Chelsea a few weeks ago… this is one of those “call me crazy” way-too-early predictions but I can’t help thinking that IF Chelsea don’t win this weekend, it is only a matter of time until Antonio Conte hits the road – willingly or not. A draw is not out of the realm of possibility with how they have been playing lately, especially with Morata out and Brighton’s CB pairing playing as well as they have all season… but I’ll give Eden Hazard the benefit of the doubt. Chelsea to win 2-0.
• EVERTON v WEST BROM: Spurs were an especially awful matchup for Everton, and West Brom benefited greatly from Brighton’s lack of pace up top. This looks like a reversion-to-the-mean type of game. Everton to win 3-1 with at least one goal coming from n00b Theo Walcott.
• LESTER v WATFORD: Goals, goals, GOALS! Don’t expect much defense in this game, especially with all the guys that Watford is missing at the moment
My initial instinct was, of course, to lean towards a win for the Foxes since they have been in better form of late (though Watford did win a head-to-head matchup at Viarage Road just last month), but then I remembered that rule #1 about the 2017-18 EPL season is whatever you think the Hornets are going to do, bet the opposite. Which suggests Watford will definitely win. But at this point they already expect me to zig when I’m supposed to zag, so I’m gonna hit them with the one they never saw coming: 2-2 draw.
• STOKE v HUDDERSFIELD: The Potters are favorites coming into this game, which you may find laughable and suggests bookies didn’t get the memo that the club was officially declared deceased unless/until proven otherwise (especially with Jesé, Erik Pieters, Glen Johnson and Ryan Shawcross all listed as “doubtful” for Saturday’s game). BUT WAIT – don’t forget about the dead coach + new coach bounce! It’s a real thing people… Stoke to win 2-1.
• ARSENAL v PALACE: The clubs are moving in opposite directions form-wise, though are not far removed from an entertaining 3-2 win for Arsenal at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day. Lexi Sanchez will almost certainly be benched pending his exit, which is an especially big blow since he alone was the difference maker in last month’s game. There is no sugar-coating the predicament that Arsenal are in right now, and there is not a ton of reasons to put much faith in them right now (especially with reports that Sanchez has “left the team hotel in hopes of expediting” his transfer out)… but if Mesut Ozil plays I’m still going with them (and I assume he will go): Arsenal to win 3-2 – again. [Note for the degens in our midst: sans Ozil I’d lean towards 2-2 draw.]
• WEST HAM v BOURNEMOUTH: Tough game to call at this point since half the Hammies starting XI is carrying knocks and listed as doubtful, with the only sure bet being – these being two of the weaker defenses in the league – that nobody is gonna get rich betting the under. (They fought to a 3-3 draw last month, for example.) On the one hand, and West Ham fans will reluctantly agree with me on this, it feels like it has been too long since they have inexplicably shit the bed… but at home against a Bournemouth squad still hungover from celebrating unexpectedly beating Arsenal? I don’t know, just doesn’t feel right. West Ham to win 3-2.
• SOUTHAMPTON v TOTTENHAM: Spurs may be without Hugo Lloris but his absence on a relative basis is less problematic than Southampton missing Maya Yoshida at the back and Charlie Austin up top. Tottenham can look painfully ordinary when playing on short rest, as the midfield press that starts 90% of their offense is far less effective. Alas, they will be playing on eight days rest, much to the Saints’ chagrin. Tottenham to win 3-1.
• SWANSEA v LIVERPOOL: Welp, guess I backed myself into a corner on this one:
Can’t imagine anything more Liverpool-y than looking good – looking damn good in fact – in scoring four and holding (possibly) the best team in the world to one goal through 85 minutes one week, then turning around and dropping points to a club that has scored 14 goals in 23 games. Predictable unpredictability has been the quintessential experience for Reds fans recently. Definitely a long-shot given how dangerous Liverpool has looked lately, but doubt the desperate Swans at your peril. One mistake from Loris Karius and weather the storm for the rest of the game. Unlikely but…
REST OF WORLD
Italy – The only league with a possible title race (aka Serie A) is BACK this weekend with leaders Napoli – one point in front of Juventus – have a trick matchup traveling to Atalanta on Sunday (5:30am CT on beIN) but the highlight of the weekend is later that day when Roma visit Inter (1:45pm CT on beIN Connect) in what feels a lot like an elimination game for any shot [outside] at the Scudetto.
Spain – Game of the week in La Liga is one of those eye-of-the-beholder things. If you like slow-moving train wrecks then Real Madrid hosting Deportivo on Sunday (9:15am CT on beIN) is gonna be your jam, or if you like entertaining soccer then 7th place Betis hosting champions-in-waiting Barcelona that afternoon (1:45pm CT on beIN) if a better bet.
Germany – Not a week write home to mama about in the Bundesliga but couple games worth watching, starting with BVBabyjesus at Herta on Friday (1:30pm CT on FS1)… but assuming you miss that and/or haven’t read this in time then I’d also recommend Bayer – one point behind 3rd place Dortmund – going to Hoffenheim on Saturday (8:30am CT on FS1).
France – I don’t talk much about PSG outside of Champions League blogs in part because they are good and Ligue 1 is not good, but they have turned into one of the biggest soap operas in world soccer at the moment with fans picking sides in an in-house Neymar vs Cavani power struggle that may or may not only exist in the minds of people trying to sell newspapers and get retweets. Either way, good game this weekend as the Parisians – 11 points up on next best team – head to said 2nd place Lyon on Sunday (2pm CT on beIN Connect).
So there we have it. Make-Belieague Cup is back with the semifinals next midweek, which I may or may not decide is worthy of a token blog, followed by a massive (as in size not particularly in importance) weekend slate of FA Cup games, which will there will indubitably be a blog for – if only to laugh at the losers and congratulate the winners of this season’s edition of the winter transfer window. Til then, don’t miss me too hard…