Talking about all things Soccer. Its Soccer, its serious… but not always.
James Keep – 10/06/2016
COPA AMERICA TAKES OFF
It’s been a mixed week for the US national team in the Copa America. They started with a not-altogether-unexpected loss against Colombia where, despite Jurgen Klinsmann’s protestations, his team did not play well. Then, with it all to play for, they pulled off a far more impressive 4-0 victory over Costa Rica. This leaves the US in a relatively good position heading into their final game on Saturday, as a draw or win against Paraguay will be enough to see them through to the Knockout Stages (and most likely a game against Brazil). However, despite a draw and a loss so far, Paraguay will not be an easy opponent to overcome.
Still though, the win over Costa Rica will go some way towards easing any pressure on Jurgen Klinsmann, as USSF President Sunil Gulati has given the first indication that he expects the US national team to start performing better than it has recently, while advancing out of the group will once again remove any chance of Klinsmann coming under threat. Yet while many would like to see him gone, including yours truly, is Klinsmann the actual problem?
WILL IT RETURN?
As for the Copa America itself, its been an enjoyable tournament so far, with the only real questions being raised over the choice of venues or, more importantly, the pricing for some of the games, as many of the less blockbuster affairs have been played in front of sparse crowds in giant American Coliseums.
The tournament could also be the first to see a new FIFA rule change played out, as the Copa America Centenario will allow teams to deploy a fourth substitution should the final go to Extra Time.
There was also talk of the Copa America becoming a permanent fixture in the US, replacing the existing tournament and also the Gold Cup whilst being held in the US every four years. However, Sunil Gulati has since rubbished those claims. While the CONCACAF/CONMEBOL tournament could and indeed should become a regular fixture, talk of replacing the Gold Cup is ridiculous for two reasons: 1) How would CONCACAF decide their representative at the Confederations Cup? 2) new CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani is looking to increase opportunities for CONCACAF nations to play competitively by increasing the teams in that tournament from 12 to 16, not reduce them from 12 to 6 in this new format. More likely the Gold Cup would drop to once every four years and exist alongside whatever the new tournament ends up being called.
ATLANTA GOES HOME
Another week and another piece of news regarding Atlanta United, who have now signed their first homegrown player, in the form of 15-year-old Andrew Carleton, who will formally join the team in 2017.
Atlanta have already begun making moves now as they’re starting a team from scratch but it makes you wonder what Minnesota United’s long-term plan is: Have they signed any players to MLS contracts yet? Will many of their current squad carry over? Their US Open Cup game against Sporting Kansas City next week may give a good indication of just how capable the current squad will be at holding their own.
For now though, the biggest question regarding Minnesota is still the stadium. Not whether or not it gets done, that’s still likely to happen, but how will fans choose to get to the games?
The Houston Dynamo have a new head coach, for now, with Wade Barrett appointed interim head coach until the end of the season. Given his history and affiliation with the club he has a good chance of earning the job full-time if he can turn around the miserable run Owen Coyle set the side off on. Barrett expects to see a much better team going forward and the Dynamo themselves have even said they would”love to lift” the interim tag from his tile at the end of the season. If results don’t improve though, well, it gives the Dynamo plenty of time to find another candidate.
CANADA TREADS WATER
Its been an interesting week for Canada too, who managed to struggle their way to a 1-1 draw with Azerbajin and a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan. David Edgar was in good form for the Canadians and is apparently open to a move to MLS should the right opportunity arise. While it seems that one Canadian who wasn’t in the current squad, Atiba Hutchinson, could be on the verge of securing a move to the Premier League
The Canadian Cup semi-finals also concluded this week and while Toronto FC advanced to the final following a 0-0 draw on Wednesday, preserving their 4-2 lead, Ottawa Fury had no such luck defending their own two goal advantage and lost 3-2 on aggregate following a 2-0 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps at B.C. Place.
ALL TO PLAY FOR… KIND OF
The NASL spring season concludes this weekend and, thanks to the New York Cosmos losing their final game last week, one of four teams could technically win the title this weekend. In all likelihood, the Cosmos have already done enough but, should the Indy Eleven win their game by four goals or more they would be champions, the same is true for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ft Lauderdale strikers, who would each need to win by six goals to have a chance. Considering the average goal against ratio stands at just over 1% for every team in the league its a tough ask for any of them. So lets assume its the Cosmos title, again.
However, the Indy Eleven have already taken steps to try and improve their odds for the fall season with the signing of Mexican international Gerardo Torrado.
While its been a typically successful week for the US women’s national team on the field, they’ve had a significantly tougher time in the court room. With a judge ruling in favour of the USSF in regards to their CBA dispute and national team goalkeeper Hope Solo also failing to get her domestic violence case thrown out.
THE NATIONAL LANDSCAPE
They don’t draw many breathes in the current conversation but the Charleston Battery want to be involved in the MLS expansion conversation, with their team owner stating “we want to be an MLS city”. Yet with the team currently averaging … fans per game they have a long way to go but can they make it?
Forget towns and their MLS ambitions for a second and lets talk about a state that currently has no professional soccer foot print at all – Idaho. That could soon be about to change though, as the Portland Timbers have one eye on expanding their presence in the region and possibly even establishing a second USL franchise in the region. The team will be hosting a “home game”in the state on Saturday to test the waters in what is already being described prior to the game as a test for “the worst case scenario” in terms of attendance.
Oklahoma’s choice of team could be about to get a lot simpler, as word is spreading that Rayo Valadolid’s relegation from La Liga is causing the team to reevaluate their investment in the US market. It would possibly be better if Rayo OKC actualy did just get out the way and allowed fans to focus on one team – Oklahoma City Energy – which could then cauge sustainabilty of making a play for MLS.
RED BULLS ON LOAN
The USL also continues this week and for those heading out to the Red Bulls II’s game against the Harrisburg City Islanders you may get to see a couple of slightly bigger names than usual, as Gonzalo Veron and Shaun Wright Phillips have both been loaned to the USL side from their parent MLS team.
TWO TO WATCH
US VS PARAGUAY- Saturday 7.30pm ET Fox Sports
The deciding game, can the US ride a wave of confidence from their 4-0 win against Costa Rica into a decisive result against Paraguay. The US doesn’t need to win, they only need a draw. The only thing they can’t do is lose. Yet despite their poor results so far, Paraguay won’t be a push over.
NYCFC VS NEW YORK COSMOS
Another New York derby! This time in the US Open Cup. Can New York City FC redeem themselves slightly from their Hudson River derby thrashing and beat their lower division rivals? Maybe not, as the New York Cosmos beat NYCFC last year. NYCFC are currently 0-5 in New York clashes, can this be a turning point or can the Cosmos crown their (probable) NASL spring title success with a win over their local rival.
Fot those who don’t like Uruguay, the Copa America Centenario has been a fantastic tournament. First there was the playing of the wrong national anthem, which the players on the field were professional about, to the point where you wonder if most had even noticed. Then there was the results – a 3-1 loss to Mexico, which include the worst type of post-final-whistle behavior just to really help you feel good about the scoreline, followed by a 1-0 loss to Venezuela, which included a marvelous tantrum from everyone’s least favorite human: Luis Suarez. Somewhere in-between all that, the Uruguayan FA President also found time to show what a poor loser he and his nation are by suggesting the tournament shouldn’t have been held in the US as it favors Mexico. The latter bit may be true but, really, get a grip.
However, for anyone too upset about the anthem: since Chile’s anthem was played instead of Uruguays, it seems the Copa organisers made sure to butcher the end of Chile’s anthem during their own game as well.