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Barstool’s Weekend Soccer Preview – The “Does Dear Leader Jozay Grow Some Balls?” Edition

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

1-EPL

Hi haters,

So are we going to talk about that USMNT game or just let it die a silent death? Ignoring inconvenient truths is typically how I deal with things but in this instance there are a couple of things I need to get off my chest about that particular performance and the situation surrounding it.

1) MVP – It’s hard to pick an MVP because there really were not any standout performances. RBNY’s Tyler Adams and Columbus’ Wil Trapp were probably the two most influential guys on the field for us, which unfortunately isn’t saying much, so in the spirit of giving I’ll name them the official co-MVPs. The only other guys who could possibly make a claim are SKC’s Ike Opara and Union’s CJ Sapong – which is a perfect segue into the game’s unanimous, undisputed, indubitable, irrefutable LVP…

2) LVP – Interim coach Dave Sarachan.

Thank you for your service

Thank you for your service

Part of me is happy to see the likes of Opara and Sapong suit up for the national team. They have put in the blood, sweat and tears over the years, and it’s good to see guys like that have the honor of playing in USA colors. Having said that, both players will be 33 years old by the time our next World Cup rolls around in 2022. Teams do not compete – let alone contend – in World Cups playing with centerbacks/strikers in their mid-30s unless they are world class freaks of nature. No offense to Opara and Sapong, who are way better than you and me, but they are not world class freaks of nature. Thus, I think it’s fair to say they should be absolutely nowhere near the WC22 roster… so why in the f*ckity f*ck are they (and guys like 30-year-old Justin Morrow) starting a meaningless friendly in 2018????? These are PRECISELY the type of games in which to give playing time to the YOUNG guys who could potentially play a role in actually competing on the international stage.

And yet there goes Dave Sarachan, fresh off not doing a godamn thing to stop Jonathan Gonzalez from defecting to Mexico, playing Opara, Sapong, Morrow and known (but limited) quantities like 26-year-old Gyasi Zardes – with 38 caps to his name already – while NOT EVEN DRESSING guys like 23-year-old Brandon Vincent and 20-year-old Justen Glad. Add in the 90 minutes he handed to Jordan Morris while not even letting Minn Utd’s Christian Ramirez suit up… this just felt like a troll job by Sarachan, plain and simple.

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If someone told me that he was secretly deathly afraid of getting the job on a permanent basis (never going to happen anyway) and this was his way of making damn sure that didn’t happen… I’d honestly believe you. What a joke. He’s like the second coming of Bruce Arena going with “guys he trusts” for a meaningless friendly four-plus years ahead of the next World Cup and 18 months before the next meaningful game (2019 Gold Cup). I’d say it is unbelievable but it’s not.

mini-arena

Well that at least makes sense

We need for the USSF presidential election to be over YESTERDAY so we can actually get down to the business of getting our house in order, starting with the crucial task of finding a new NT coach who doesn’t suck.

3) WE GON’ BE AIGHT – Having gotten all that above off my chest…………. there is plenty of reason for optimism. The pipeline of young talent – most but not all of whom are in Europe and were thus unavailable for a meaningless friendly in the US on a weekend not sanctioned as an official “international window” by FIFA – is deeper now than it has ever been. Anybody who says otherwise is either pushing some sort of agenda or an idiot. I’m not going to go into great detail about them all because I’m sure there are plenty of lists out there but beyond names that everybody knows like Pulisic, McKennie, Gooch, Carter-Vickers, Miazga…

and guys that you may have heard of from recent USYNT games like Sargent and Weah… there are guys most people haven’t even heard of yet like Parks, Taitague, Olosunde and Moore who are playing in Portugal, Germany, England and Spain that you will get to know soon enough.

Point being: fear not – we gon’ be aight. The next few months are going to suck and suck HARD, but soon enough the World Cup’s Round of 16 will have come and gone (thus ensuring the USMNT would have been eliminated even in a best-case scenario) and this nightmare will officially be behind us. So in the meantime let’s all agree to not think about it for a while and instead concentrate on the gloriousness of things like the title (and top four) races around Europe, and the Champions League (or Europa for Arsenal) stretch run…

And with that we move right along to the midweek slate of games directly ahead…

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ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Scores from last matchday:

3-scores

News, notes, observations, highlights & lowlights:

– Brutal performances from Spurs and Liverpool, and brilliant results for Southampton and especially Swansea. ‘Tis the “beauty” of the EPL.

– First halfway decent game from Stoke in ages… beginning of a turnaround or dead cat (slash new manager) bounce?

– Nobody is quicker to pull the trigger on coaching changes than Watford. I was not a fan when they sent Quique Sanchez Flores packing and don’t think sacking Marco Silva was the right call (the explanation that Everton poisoned the well with Silva by offering to buy him for £10 million only makes Watford management look all the dumber). To the club’s credit, they managed to bounce back from the earlier mistake. TBD if they can do so again.

United out-Burnleyed Burnley

– Speaking of the Clarets, their W-D-L record is identical to Lester’s – but my oh my they could not have taken different roads to wins up at the same place right now.

4-twins

– Dead one minute, curb-stomping Palace the next… the Arsenal experience!

– You may notice in the table below that the bottom six teams are within three points of one another and bottom 10 are within two results of one another. Should make for an interesting final few months – and that’s to say nothing of the barn-burner of a top battle that is in store.

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POWER RANKINGS

TOP 4
1. City
2. United
3. Chelsea
4. Tottenham
Honorable mention: Arsenal, Liverpool, Lester

Tough call on ranking Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool this week. United’s performances haven’t been much better but can’t help but move them up a bit after Jozay added a difference maker like Lexi to the mix. Chelsea has drawn and lost to Arsenal recently (though it must be said they outplayed the Gunners on the road in that second game), but Arsenal mixed in a loss to Bournemouth (not to mention the Nottingham Forest debacle), Spurs have looked painfully pedantic lately (albeit without some key players and/or playing on cow pastures) and Liverpool followed up the City win with their two worst performances of the season. Fun times!

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BOTTOM 3
20. Stoke
19. Swansea
18. Brighton
Dishonorable mention: West Brom, Huddersfield, Newcastle

Note: Yes, Liverpool just lost to two of the bottom four teams (and two of the bottom two if you go by the table). Not a good look.

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Table as it stands now:

5-table

And this weekend’s schedule:

6-schedule

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PICKS OF THE MIDWEEK

Tottenham [+125]
United [+215]
Draw [+195]

Fact: This is great value for anybody thinking about taking United. Jozay has a tendency to play conservatively on the road against fellow Big Six, which could actually be a mistake given Spurs’ injury woes, but it is possible that now having Lexi to take some of the pressure off Pogba as the load-bearing playmaker will convince Dear Leader to loosen the leash a bit. (I’ll believe it when I see it though.)

Tottenham are not in a good spot at the moment, coming off two crap performances against Southampton and something called Newport Town, but more troubling is the fitness of Hugo Lloris and especially Christian Eriksen, as the Danish sprite’s absence has coincided with Spurs’ offense becoming painfully stagnant. If he is back – and **legitimately healthy** – that could be a game-changer, but that seems unlikely based on the most recent reports/scuttlebutt.

This feels like a game that will look right there for the taking for United for most of the game… but one in which Jozay’s hesitancy comes back to bite him on the tuchus. I’ll say 1-1 draw.

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Everton [+190]
Lester [+150]
Draw [+210]

Battle for “The Best of the Rest” – assuming Burnley continues is slow and steady decline towards mid-table – finds Everton in perfectly awful form (zero wins in last seven games) against a Lester side that has been playing well but is in a bit of Riyad-Mahrez-related flux [for the, what, fifth straight transfer window] as the club yet again decides whether to finally deal the shifty little Algerian.

As an aside: not enough is being made about Big Sam’s proclamation that Everton’s two biggest signings of the summer – Gylfi Siggurdsson and Wayne Rooney – cannot play together because they are too slow. He’s not wrong, of course, but the fact he came out and said it in plain English is hilarious.

Anyway, call me crazy but I kind of like what Everton could have going in midfield with Bolasie and Walcott flanking Sigurdsson, with Gueye and Schneiderlin in support. The big question (aside from the wingers staying healthy – yikes) is whether newly minted striker Cenk Tosun can answer the question I have been asking since this summer about from where the goals are going to come… if ever there was an ideal time for a coming out party for the Turk, a matchup against the Foxes’ porous defense just may be it. Everton to win 2-1.

Hi, I'm Cenk

Hi, I’m Cenk

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Other picks:

• SWANSEA v ARSENAL: Every Swans player will obviously know going into the game that today is the day that Dan Katz popped out of Mama Katz some 33-odd years ago, but I can’t help thinking the pressure of performing well for their dearly beloved owner will be like an anchor weighing them down – emotionally and physically. Arsenal to win 2-0. [Note: even if he doesn’t get to celebrate a win, Birthday Cat can at least be happy knowing Swansea managed to off-load pencildick-mustache guy (and one of the worst midfielders in the league) Roque Mesa on loan to Sevilla for the rest of the season… silver lining!]

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• LIVERPOOL v HUDDERSFIELD: Far, farrrrrr too many Liverpool fans think the sky is falling after the crap performances versus Swansea and West Brom. Chillllllll babygirls. Give the club a little time to regather its bearings in the wake of adding VVD and losing Coutinho. They’ll be fine. And in the meantime Huddersfield doesn’t have the weapons to hang today. Liverpool to win 3-1.

• WEST HAM v PALACE: Two teams that have shown glimpses of mid-table potential mixed in with shambolic performances. In the end I can’t helping thinking the Hammies’ injury list is a little too long and Eagles’ attack looks a little more dangerous (thanks mostly to Zaha). Palace to win 2-1.

• CHELSEA v BOURNEMOUTH: The Blues will likely play yet again without a striker, which they have managed to get away with a number of times due to the brilliance (and underrated flexibility) of Eden Hazard, but that is going to come back to bite them at some point… and it doesn’t help that Bournemouth will be coming off of 10 days’ rest. Gimme a 1-1 draw.

• NEWCASTLE v BURNLEY: Every game this week feels like it involves two teams in awful form, but this one really IS a game involving two teams in awful form. So it’s not a question of how is playing badly, but who is playing worse, and I’m going with Burnley whose extraordinary run of fortunate bounces and 1-0 wins seems to have gotten flipped on its head lately. Newcastle to win 1-0.

• SOUTHAMPTON v BRIGHTON: The Seagulls have quietly lost their way lately while Southampton has quietly remembered how to play soccer, AND broke their transfer record by splurging on Monaco striker Guido Carrillo. I’m not convinced he will be worth the money but I do know they needed some help up top so any little bit helps. Southampton to win 2-0.

• MAN CITY v WEST BROM: In case you were wondering if maybe the oil money was running out, the answer is not even close. City just splurged $80 million on Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte (a good move for when Kompany gets hurt and/or Otamendi remembers he’s not nearly as good as he’s been playing) and is rumored to be at the top of Mahrez’s list of preferred destinations. (Lester said they won’t sell for less than $90 million).

8-mcfc_FFP

Annnnnnnnnnyway, West Brom have looked quite good lately, and City will be without Leroy Sane (for at least a month or two), so my guess is we could be in for a bit of a surprise in this one. City to win (only) 3-1.

• STOKE v WATFORD: The Hornets have lost nine of their last 11 league games. That’s bad. That’s real bad. Part of the problem is the team’s injury sheet is longer than its gameday roster. The good news is that Stoke’s defense has been the worst in the league all season – and not by just a little bit – and none of Watford’s three top scorers are among the army of injured blokes. Sounds like a split the baby situation. Gimme a 2-2 draw. [Note: anybody taking the under should consider punching themselves in the face instead.]

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So there we have it. Another full weekend of action coming up, which oughta be a nice little appetizer for Sunday’s Supaaaaa Bowwwwww.

RONNY SCORES WHEN HE WANTS!

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Holler,
Samuel Army