Lots to talk about. I could easily write a few thousand words about last Sunday’s Liverpool/Tottenham game alone. But before we get to that and all the weekend action ahead let’s talk about something going on a little closer to home… namely the USSF presidential election.
By this time tomorrow the Sunil Gulati era will be officially over and there will be a new USSF sheriff in town.
The big question of course is WHO IS GOING TO WIN?
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure.
Gun to head I probably would have guessed Carter coming into this week but it still seemed like a bit of a toss-up among the four leading contenders – those being Carter, Cordeiro, Martino or Wynalda.
[[Note: I wrote a breakdown of all the candidates a few weeks ago so read that if you are lost right now.]]
However, last night’s news that an 11th hour meeting was held by all the candidates not named Carter/Cordeiro (the two most closely associated with the MLS/SUM “cartel”) smells a lot like a desperation move, suggesting that perhaps Carter (ex-SUM president) or Cordeiro (Gulati’s right hand man) may be well out in front of the rest of the candidates.
A lot of people are supposedly going to be very, very, very mad online if Carter or Cordeiro win.
The replies to the above tweet are absolutely hilarious. Soccer snowflakes are the softest snowflakes.
“I have loved soccer with my heart and soul my entire life since 2014 when me and my hipster friends watched the USA/Portugal game and if this person who don’t know anything about is elected to lead an organization I also don’t know anything about, well gosh darn it, that is just it. I am done with soccer.”
It’s the same thing that all those babies said when Trump won the 2016 election, and my response to them is the same: GO. FUCK. YOURSELF.
US soccer is not perfect. Many things that need fixing – both behind the scenes (solidarity payments and coaching certification system) and high profile (promotion/relegation) – but we are getting there. The ball is rolling. Important conversations are already happening. Progress would have happened anyway but the USMNT’s implosion has supercharged the process. Anybody who thinks the sky is falling just because Carter/Cordeiro are elected is either wilfully ignorant or woefully naïve about where the sport was 20 years ago, where we are today, and where things are going from here.
Would one of them be my top choice? No. Sometimes perception is reality, and either Carter and Cordeiro would come with a lot of baggage so I’d just as soon change things up a bit and elect someone with some fresh ideas and new perspectives. Though I haven’t said so publicly (since I don’t have a vote and who really cares about my opinion anyway), my first choice would be KYLE MARTINO, whose platform is not all that dissimilar to the tinfoil hat crew’s beloved savior Eric Wynalda… except that Martino is not nearly as needlessly antagonistic and, most importantly, he doesn’t tweet like an emo tweenager.
If Martino does not win, though, it is not the end of the world. The most important message of all is that win, lose or draw – US soccer is gon’ be aight. So instead of getting mad online just sit back, relax and enjoy the (shit)show this weekend..
NOW ON TO THE GOOD STUFF…………..
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Scores from last weekend:
News, notes, observations, highlights & lowlights:
– Liverpool vs Spurs. Wow. So many talking points. Where even to begin??? Both teams scored incredible goals (Salah’s second and WanBOMBa), and scored a rather weak goal (dumb mistake by Dier played Salah in on goal early on and then VVD absolutely fouled Lamela at the death). I spent the entire day on Sunday fighting with people on twitter about whether or not VVD kicked Lamela so let’s end the discussion right here and now:
VVD absolutely, definitively kicked Lamela. It doesn’t matter if VVD “didn’t see him” or what have you. It is a foul. You can’t kick an opponent. That is against the rules. If you still want to argue that VVD did not foul Lamela after seeing that replay then I can definitively say I wish you were aborted as a fetus because you are weighing on humanity’s average IQ. That said, Lamela very well may have been offside just before. It was close but gun to head I’d say he may have been off by an inch or two. So that’s a more legit gripe for Liverpool fans. But it is soccer. Close calls happen all the time so they are going to go against you sometimes. As a Spurs fan I would have felt icky coming out with three points, but a draw was a fair result.
Regardless how you feel about the results or the refs calls… that was one HELL of a soccer game. Kinda like Liverpool/City, I was just happy to have had the pleasure of watching it.
– Here lies Everton. Murdered by next-gen Arsenal.
– Watford brutalized Chelsea. There was nothing fluky about it. The Hornets walking up and took defending champions’ lunch money, stuffed them in a locker, and started dating their girlfriend. Terrible performance from Chelsea and – given Antonio Conte’s war of words with ownership – it is getting increasingly difficult to imagine him finishing out the season at Stamford Bridge…. If only because he must have signed off on this signing:
– Raheem Sterling with the miss of the season against Burnley and, as always happens, City paid the price a few minutes later by conceding a late equalizer.
– Will Swansea ever lose again? Well, it’s tough to say.
– Fun stat of the day: through 26 games, 20th place West Brom has scored the same number of goals – 21 – as 7th place Burnley… unfortunately they have conceded 14 more. Whoops.
Honorable mention: Arsenal, Bournemouth, Swansea, Chelsea
19. West Brom
18. West Ham
Dishonorable mention: Newcastle
Table as it stands now:
And this weekend’s schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
SET YOUR ALARM, BOYS & GIRLS……. cause this is gonna be an early one. 6:30am CT? Woof.
Yet another big game for Spurs following games against United and Liverpool, and just ahead of a massive first-leg of Champions League knockout against Juventus. Not an ideal time to come up against a hated rival, but such is life sometimes.
So is Arsenal’s new look offense for real, or was the ass whuppin they put on Everton due to the Toffees poor play and naivete? My guess is more of the former. Ozil and Aubameyang, in particular, strike me as an especially dangerous duo when they get on the same page. For right now though it is important to remember that comparing the defense of Everton and Tottenham is like comparing the before and after pictures from one of those miracle muscle builder elixirs
But here’s the more relevant rub: that same picture could just as easily be applied to Arsenal
So, as much as I would LOVE to sit here tell you that Arsenal has a chance to win this weekend, I just can’t because I am not a liar. The fact is Arsenal don’t. They just don’t. Tottenham are the more complete team. A combined XI includes two Gunners (Ozil and Aubameyang, for the record) and nine Spurs – NINE to TWO! We could get more into the weeds about various possible tactical nuances one team or the other could throw out there tomorrow morning in an attempt to throw the other off, but I don’t think a battle of managers involving a dinosaur whose own fanbase wants him gone and the guy every club under the sun covets is a battle that favors Arsenal either. Tottenham to win 2-1.
Damn shame Crybaby Mahrez has gone and thrown a monkey wrench in Lester’s operations because, thanks to their quick strike, counterattacking style, the Foxes could have had a real shot… at keeping this one kind of close. Alas, can’t help thinking the club will come in a bit distracted, and anything less than 100% concentration against Pep’s Peoples is a recipe for disaster. City to win 4-1.
• STOKE v BRIGHTON: The *Potters* have experienced a mini-turnaround since bringing in Paul Lambert in as the new manager but it is not altogether clear whether it is just a blip or if perhaps the journeyman coach managed to fix what had been the leakiest defense on god’s green earth. I suspect they have the talent to stay up, but that would mean winning games exactly like this one at home against a fellow relegation struggler. Fun fact: of Brighton last 10 road games, the Seagulls have won precisely……… zero. Ouch. Stoke to win 2-0.
• SWANSEA v BURNLEY: Rough week for the Swans as, in the midst of their best run of form in forever, they found out Leroy Fer and Wilfried Bony both just picked up season-ending injuries. No bueno. The big question is who on either team is going to score AH goal, let alone more than that, as both teams are scoring less than one per game at this point. Since I say that it’ll probably turn out to be a goal-fest but sometime you just gotta go with your gut… I’ll say 0-0 draw.
• EVERTON v PALACE: Toffees are fresh off getting embarrassed by Arsenal but will have had a full week to pick up the pieces and start over. Two things in particular are going for them this weekend: 1) Palace’s injury list is longer than Big Dick Nick and 2) Eliaquim Mangala will no doubt be on the bench and unable to give away goals like candy. Everton to win 3-1.
• WEST HAM vs WATFORD: This one was shaping up to be Woeful welcoming Woefuller… then Watford walloped the golly gee willikers out of Chelsea. And lemme tell you, that win was not a fluke. They came out and dominated the game from start to finish, which when combined with Watford’s previous scoreless draw with Stoke (league’s worst defense) means I continue to officially have no idea what to expect from the Hornets. Laying an egg in their very next game makes almost too much sense, even against banged up West Ham. Keep in mind this game involves teams that concede an average of about eight goals apiece… so 1-1 draw sounds about right.
• HUDDERSFIELD v BOURNEMOUTH: Huddersfield hit a wall right around Christmas – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually… all of the above. Their last five EPL games have been 0-3, 1-4, 0-2, 0-3, and 0-2 losses. And more than that, the performances have been that of a dead fish. The Cherries, on the other hand, have been killing it and currently own the longest unbeaten streak in the league (seven games), including wins over wee Arsenal and wee Chelsea. Add to that the fact Terriers have one of the worst home records in the league annnnnd… well… sometimes soccer just doesn’t make any sense. Huddersfield to win 2-1.
• NEWCASTLE v UNITED: If the Magpies don’t watch out they are going to find themselves smack dab in the drop zone – rather than just on the outer rim where they have called home for the last few months. Unfortunately they catch a United squad that has had an entire week of rest and, with the exception of Eric Bailly, is about as healthy as they are going to get. United to win 2-0.
• SOUTHAMPTON v LIVERPOOL: Southampton outgunned West Brom last time out. Not bad, not bad… but let’s see you do it again against a team with a legitimate strike force. Liverpool to win 4-2.
• CHELSEA v WEST BROM: I was a little surprised Roman Abramovich didn’t book Conte a ride on the first slow boat back to Italy after the Blues got demolished by Watford on Monday. That said, keeping him around at the very least until they get spanked by Barcelona (rough draw) in Champions League makes sense. The continued absence of Alvaro Morata could be a problem as it means that Olivier Giroud has to slot directly into a brand new XI (or Hazard to play further up the field) – neither one of which is ideal. Nothing like a little (Double) Baggie slumpbuster though. Chelsea to win 3-1.
REST OF WORLD
Germany – 5th place Schalke head to leaders Bayern on Saturday (11:30am CT on FS2) in a game with massive Champions League implications for the visitors, which are even on points with 4th place Dortmund and one point behind Bayer Leverkusen.
Italy – Leaders Napoli welcome 3rd place Lazio on Saturday (1:45pm ET on beIN Connect)… why this isn’t on TV is beyond me.
Spain – Relatively tame weekend in La Liga so if you are going to watch anything it might as well be the slow-moving trainwreck that is Real Madrid hosting Real Thothiedad on Saturday (1:45pm ET on beIN).
So there we have it. Full weekend of SOCCUH on deck followed by………….
Get pumped, fam.