Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kalifornia Klingsman has The US Ship Steered in the Right Direction, Towards Brazil

Jurgen Klingsman coach of the US Men’s Soccer team was certainly on the hot seat after an opening round loss to Honduras putting the US at the bottom of the table below Jamaica and Costa Rica. However since then they’ve gone 3-0-1 racking up ten points and have moved not only to the top of the table but have the best goal differential (+3) and have three of the final five games in United States. Suffice to state that they’re on the fast road to Brazil, with Klingsman driving. The German born coach and former national player has taken a more proactive approach and it has paid off with immediate dividends. The US defeated Jamaica 2-1 in Kingston in a match that featured some of his most tactical moves and best decisions during his two-year tenure as the national team skipper, including an attacking move that resembled ‘pulling the goalie’ in hockey that yielded the winning goal in stoppage time. Additionally, for the first time in more than two-dozen games in charge, Klingsman selected a starting 11 he had slated once before. There may finally be some continuity and flow to the US game, and that will make them a difficult out not only over their final five remaining qualifiers but when the chips are really in the center of the table next year in Brazil. On the other side of the coin are the Tri-Colors that have not been flying high as Mexico came into the group as the favorites once again but have had a dearth of offense, particularly at home and now have their work cut out for them on the back nine of qualification. The good news is they’re undefeated in group play, but the bad news is that they have one win and four ties, yielding eight points and tenuous hold on third place. Tenuous in the sense that they’ve played one more match than all others in contention and must go on the road for two of their final four matches where they will need a result in at least one them. Normally dominant at Azteca Stadium, Mexico has failed to score a goal at home in three matches and what in the past would be a sure nine points has only produced three thus far and has some very nervous supporters south of the border. This sets up a huge match with Honduras on September 5th, where they must get at least the draw and probably a win otherwise their trip to South America will stop a bit short.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wigan Does More than Salvage a Season

Going into the FA Cup Final Wigan Athletic knew if they didn’t pull off what was perceived to be a miraculous upset, their incredible run would soon be forgotten as just another great tournament run by a Cinderella club that met its end when faced by a top level club. Perhaps even more at stake was the salvation of a season that started with much optimism, hoping to improve on last season’s 15th place finish as they were reminded that they were only two wins away from finishing in the top 10. However, after dropping three of their last six matches and falling below the water level of relegation, the club could change their fortunes from calamity to historic with a win over the defending EPL Champions Manchester City in the FA Cup Final. The match itself wasn’t one for the purist as there was no scoring until the 90th minute despite Wigan having a one man advantage due to a terrible challenge by City’s Pablo Zabaleta that set the stage for their grand exit. But don’t let that be the only stat you pay attention to as the game was statistically even in all of the 19 major match stats that are kept, all except goals scored. This was a victory for David, for the little guy, for the little train that could. 81 years without a piece of hardware to show for it. The giant fell to the ground and the rumbles could be herd all the way to the City of Manchester Stadium where the first head to roll after the consternation of having to close the trophy case without making any additions was manager Roberto Mancini True there have been some upsets where the goliath had a bigger name and most supporters will always have an upset by their own club to call the biggest but there is no arguing the fact that City’s 187 million payroll dwarfs Wigan’s 12 by the largest margin in FA Cup history and I’ll put that disparity up against any of the other biggest upsets in history regardless of tournament. This was one for the ages and unfortunately it will have to carry the Wigan faithful supporters clear for another 12 months until they can get back to the competing in the top division again as the Gunners need to win two straight matches to qualify for the Champions League next year and the little train that could is standing on the tracks in front of the Gunner’s freight train and that loss will send them down for the summer. However the wild ride won’t be forgotten in our lifetime and something tells me we haven’t seen the last of David. View the complete EPL final week here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Borussia and Bayern turn Champions League Final into Feiertag

As the original field of 32 in this year’s Champions League Tournament began to decrease so did the number of EPL sides left in the tourney, as well as most favorites. So when it got down to the final four sides one might surmise that the upsets had run their course and we would see the old rivals from Spain square off in a storied final that would add another chapter to their history. However Bayern Munich seemed like a side on a mission after losing in the final last year on their home soil in a dramatic PK loss on Drogba’s last goals as a Chelsea striker, one to tie late and the last to win the game, shootout, and championship. Matched up with Barcelona and Lionel Messi in the semi-final, although slowed by a hamstring injury Bayern for intent and purposes wrapped up their spot in the final in the first leg with a shocking 4-0 victory in Munich, as Thomas Müller scored twice and despite losing possession 63-37% it seemed like there were 14 Bayern players on the pitch. After that first leg it was foregone conclusion that they would get their second consecutive shot at the title. It’s a testament to the character of the side that they were even able to get back into the mix after such a heartbreaking defeat, but they were more than competitive they made it all the way back to final. The second leg was not much better as Bayern left no doubters whom the better side was with another solid 3-0 win to hand Real Madrid their worst ever net aggregate loss in a major competition 7-0. On the other side they will meet their countrymen from the North were pulling off an upset of their own as most were expecting Ronoldo to steal the show, and at half-time of the first leg he had as it was 1-1, but from there the match and a spot in the Finals belonged to Robert Lewandowski’s and the Black & Gold. Three second half goals put him in the record books and Dortmund in the Final. The second leg was more formality than anything else as Real made it respectable in the second leg with a 2-0 win but even those came in the final seven minutes of the match. So all of Europe may be watching on May 25th but there will certainly be a concentrated focus as for the first time ever two German sides will be battling for more than the hardware, as it’s also a North/South rivalry with even more on the line for the countrymen involved. This is an unexpected final for the football world but it truly is a once in a century moment for the Nation and aside from a World Cup match on home soil this is about as big as it gets. It’s a good thing the Final falls on a Saturday as half the nation would be calling in sick so they might as well make it a holiday (Feiertag in German) because half will be celebrating when it is all said and done and the celebration may last until Monday.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sweet Revenge For Man U.

The last day of the EPL season last year was the most memorable in decades for many as Manchester City seemingly had the title won, then lost, then won again in the most improbable of ways, to which many have already turned into folklore. Among those disbelievers were the 75,000 plus at Old Trafford that day whom listed on radio or watched on tablets as City came back in stoppage time to salvage victory from the beyond the jaws of defeat, more like the digestive track, as Manchester United were in the midst of song celebrating another championship. They had several months to dwell on what they could have done do be deciding their own fate this year and made sure they were not in the same position again in the 2013 campaign. Perhaps the shock hadn’t worn off as they took the pitch on August 20th of last year when they lost to Everton 1-0 to start the season, but after that wakeup call, they went on two consecutive runs, the first winning 8 of their next 9 games and then proceeded to go on a 9 out of 10 game run which included a Manchester Derby win over the afore mentioned rivals in blue (at Etihad Stadium) , for a total of 17-2 and the Premiere League title was a forgone conclusion. It was about the most dominating start to finish win since the Arsenal “Invincibles” season of 03-04’, as Man U. rose to the top of the table for the 2nd time after the 15th match of the season and never looked back. The 16-point cushion an ostentatious display of dominance of a year that only has been missing a sweep of The Derby, as City answered back and took the match at Old Trafford 3-2, and lack of any tournament hardware to solidify its place in history. However I’m sure Sir Alex would have taken this result if given the option at the start of the season, but then I think he’s been posing that question to himself every day for almost a year now.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barcelona Pulls off a Stunner but Surprises No One

No side had ever come back from being down 0-2 on aggregate to advance to the quarter finals of the Champions League so the prospects didn’t look good for Barcelona despite their storied history. To make the odds even more steep they were lining up against AC Milan, a side with some pretty good pedigree as well. Well, someone forgot to mention the odds to the Spaniards and the 95 thousand in attendance as not only did Barcelona make up the deficit in the first half, but they shut down ACM defensively and put up a 4-0 shutout to move on with a what would seem like a comfortable +2 aggregate that those who might have just tuned in to catch the final eight would have expected as going into the tournament Barcelona was one of the favorites as the World’s best player Lionel Messi has been playing at the top of his game when teamed up with David Villa present the most formidable duo in football. The rub is that they haven’t been healthy, or had their best side on the pitch long enough to display that continuity that on paper looks to be unmatched. On Tuesday it all came together and was on full display as the speed and accuracy of the passing and execution on the chances they did create made the football world finally see them exercise their full potential, and those Barce faithful say “we told you so”. They are a side that no one wants to see in the round of 8, but there are plenty of quality sides left as the tournament certainly lives up to its name. Real, PSG, and Juventus you might have expected but Dortmund look usually strong and Malaga could be a side of destiny. Bayern and Galatasaray are a bit of a surprise to round out the quarterfinals, so plenty of obstacles still in the way, but any fan of the game who likes to see good football got an exhibition of what it could be like when it all comes together.