It’s been nearly a year since Manchester United finally perched itself on a ridge and then flung itself off into oblivion. Just last April, United was scuffling through David Moyes’ final feverish days in charge of the flaming Viking funeral pyre that was the 2013-14 Premier League season. With dreams of Europe for ’14-15 fading like Moyes’ general relevance, United’s tailspin was nearing its nadir.
But, paradoxically, the Champions League campaign hadn’t been a total dumpster fire. United eased to a top finish in Group A with 14 points and no losses from six matches, and a how-in-the-hell-did-they-hang-on 3-2 aggregate win over Olympiacos set them up against mighty Bayern Munich in the final eight. Which is where, in a final push for international relevancy, the boxcar finally tipped off the tracks for Moyes.
In February, the English Premier League announced a historic $7.9 billion TV deal. On its face, the thing is a little obscene. It was a 70 percent increase over the previous deal, and it promised an even heftier bundle of cash for Championship teams lucky enough to survive the lower-tier gauntlet and step into the moneyed sunshine of the English top rung. The league’s last place team will receive $152 million annually. The winner? A cool $240 million. Or, in other words, nearly the entire sum of Alex Rodriguez’s decade-long contract with the Yankees, the richest in baseball history. For one team. In one season.
The benefits of the cash grab were immediately obvious. More money, more resources, more opportunity. In addition to the ability to simply buy better players, there was the idea that teams will inevitably have a deeper pool in which to allow their prospects to swim. Wider scouting networks, bigger academies, more homegrowns.
That, however, is conventional wisdom. Not practical wisdom. The Premier League is going to get worse at developing its own superstars before it gets better. Have a look.
The Young Professionals, the internet’s top podcast dedicated to all levels of U.S. Soccer, takes a deep dive into the senior team’s recent blown 3-2 loss to Denmark and the current U23/U20 camps. From Michael Bradley’s Pirlo impression to the re-introduction of a U20 striker who could change the team’s fortunes at the World Cup later this spring, it’s all here. Just try not to get a nosebleed on this rollercoaster of soccer goodness.
MLS is getting another Ireland striker this summer. Wolves man Kevin Doyle is joining up with the Colorado Rapids July 1, apparently because he’s never heard of the Colorado Rapids. In any case, he’s not worried MLS will ruin his hopes for future national team call-ups. He should probably be more worried that he’s 31 and played 59 minutes in the Championship this year. But I digress.
Sky took the opportunity to quiz Doyle on some Americanisms. Like wall pass. And douchebag. Which coincidentally are the only two words he’ll need to know when he gets to Denver.
Seven goals allowed in the last 10 minutes of its last seven games.
The USMNT took its late defensive futility to new lows on Wednesday in a dour 3-2 loss to Denmark in rainy, blustery Aarhus. The U.S. conceded the middle of the field to the Danes for much of the match and got both its goals off long balls. The first of those from Jozy Altidore was speculative, but the second was a beauty from Michael Bradley than Aron Johannsson bundled in from four yards.
But that old finishing trope bucked up like a wild stallion and threw the Americans to the ground. Again. Two goals in the final 10 minutes Wednesday doomed the U.S., but it wasn’t exactly undeserved, either. The defense routinely crossed over itself, the midfield wasn’t built to possess the ball for more than a few touches and the strikers were stranded. Not good.
Keep in mind my scale may look harsher than others. For me, 5.0 is average. Anything above that and I liked at least something you did. Needless to say, I was stingier than normal with those today.
GK Nick Rimando, 5.5: This was hardly Rimando’s worst game, and his constantly shifting back line probably owes him a dinner at some point. But he didn’t look particularly sharp off his line, which isn’t something you’re used to seeing from Rimando, who’s typically so cat-like and agile jetting out into the box. But again, some more help from his back line would’ve been nice.
Every golden generation is relative. Tethered to history as we are, judgment is only siphoned through the distinctive lenses of the past. Argentinians of the mid-80′s, for instance, can now be excused for assuming they’d never again produce a single class the likes of Passarella and Burruchaga and Valdano and the inimitable, almost vague figure of Maradona. To this day, Passarella is one of just five non-Brazilians to have won the World Cup more than once.
Argentina did not win the 2014 World Cup, but there is little argument that the golden generation of Aguero and Mascherano and Di Maria and the atomic Messi is at least as good individually as their title-winning predecessors from nearly 30 years ago. At least. And so that sits on the weather-beaten Argentinian wood grain like a fresh coat of varnish, awaiting the next coat in some far off decade. Every golden generation is relative, and every one is judged on the merits of its predecessors.
In that sense, the American golden generation exists because all things exist on their own relative plane, but only here, on these shores. There has yet to be a clustered grouping of Americans concentrated enough in pure talent to grab the attention of the world at large and make its way onto some ubiquitous listicle on a Moroccan blog or onto an infographic in La Gazetta dello Sport. Would Spain, for instance, recognize our High Era as one befitting the English of the 60′s or the West Germany of the 70′s or the Italians of the 80′s or the French of the 90′s or their own Spain from the late aughts? Probably not. If they even know what it looks like (they should – 2009 knocks from afar).
When we talk about high level development in the U.S., you can hear the crackling static when we talk about the 18-22 age bracket. At least in recent history, nobody’s quite sure where to go from there.
The Development Academy is nowhere near where it needs to be, but at just eight years old it’s made significant strides since it kicked off its first match in 2007. And for all its confusing rules, MLS is slowly attracting and generating more talent from the nutrient-rich waters abroad and off its own shores.
But there still isn’t an easy fix for that 18-22 age range. The college season is too short. The academy doesn’t have U19 or U20 or U23 divisions. And other leagues have fizzled without enough support. That’s why USL’s increasingly large footprint in development is moving the needle significantly. As more MLS teams pop online with USL franchises, the pathway between U18 and pro soccer becomes slightly smoother.
The Sounders were one of those clubs this offseason, and their new USL franchise S2 fired up with its first match last weekend. A smashing 4-2 win over defending league champs Sacramento Republic signaled the league’s MLS debutants (all of Cascadia is now on board) will probably shake things up this season.
And now we come to Pablo Rossi. The good folks at Sounder At Heart know plenty about Rossi, who has his own Seattle-based hype train running up and down the Puget Sound. Over the weekend, he got his first real life game action just days after he triumphantly inked an official contract with S2. And the result was that lovely (SUPER SLO-MO) free kick that won him bonus points for pinging off the back of the keeper.
We here at TDS love our Hype Trains. Rossi’s is one we can hop on.
As we close in on what could be a critical weekend in what Sir Alex Ferguson referred to as the “squeaky bum” time of the season. United, Arsenal and Liverpool fans all fall asleep with renewed hope in their hearts.
With City and Chelsea dropping precious points last weekend, the title race door has opened slightly ajar. With that being said a draw at Anfield Sunday would surely leave United behind and most definitely Liverpool, if they both weren’t already.
So how will it fair? Who will finish top four? Who will be crowned Kings of England? Lets take a look at each teams run ins, form and our predictions.
Over the past two seasons, the Virginia women’s soccer team has been one of North America’s most entertaining sides — regardless of the level. With head coach Steve Swanson emphasizing possession-based, attacking soccer and U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Morgan Brian at the hub of it, the Cavaliers scored 88 goals in 2014 and 78 in 2013.
The downside? Virginia reached the College Cup both seasons, only to come up short against both eventual champions (UCLA and Florida State respectively).
Relive some of the best of those 88 goals from last fall in the above compilation. It’s worth the time.
This Sunday serves up another edition of El Clasico, as Barcelona hosts Real Madrid in one of, if not the best rivalry in world soccer.
To commemorate the upcoming game where past editions have featured great goals, amazing skill and epic hissy fits and brouhahas, scope out some of the best goals from meetings over the years, from the likes of Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Roberto Carlos and Lionel Messi.