It’s happening. The Convergence of the Spheres is upon us.
Or, you know, whatever. No, Carlo Ancelotti is not packing up his eyebrow and getting out of town. Martin Odegaard, he of Ultimate Internet Fame, is on the bench for Real Madrid’s season finale against Getafe on Saturday. With everything decided and Barcelona already holding the league trophy, Odegaard could be on the field for the Real Madrid senior team for the first time. Gird thyself. The Takes Are Coming. Valar Morghulis.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to skip over to this story on U.S. Women’s National Team star forward Abby Wambach over at the NY Times making the rounds today. It’s a doozy.
With the Women’s World Cup’s approach, there’s a general sense of foreboding clinging to the shadowy corners of the USWNT camp. The Hope Solo saga still hasn’t been resolved. There’s still the matter of the team’s playing style under Jill Ellis, who’s put away substandard teams but at times struggled to cope tactically against good ones. There’s the idea that this team is good, clearly one of the world’s best, but is it even a favorite anymore? And then there’s what to do about Abby Wambach.
First, let’s pull out some of the choice cuts from Wambach’s chat with the Times.
Are you a Leicester City fan? Did you survive the previous EPL season with your wits intact? Are you celebrating because the bottom half of the table looks like this with just a weekend left and relegation a mere memory?
The U.S.’s first match against Myanmar is a mere 10 days away. Here’s a look at four big questions worth pondering as the opener draws ever closer.
What are appropriate expectations?
At least on the international stage, the last four years have been a ragged set of claws continually digging into the fleshy underbelly of the U.S. Youth National Team system. In 2013, the U20s qualified for the World Cup, but failed to win the CONCACAF tournament for a first time and were dumped out of a comically difficult World Cup group with a single point to show. A few months later, the U17s lost to Honduras 3-1 in the first CONCACAF knockout stage and didn’t even qualify.
You may not know Christian Eissele, but odds are, his name will be in front of your face with increasing frequency in the coming years.
The former Central Florida forward (he scored a goal on his very first college touch at UCF, if that tells you anything), signed at the age of 18 with Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy, which is designed to give Americans a chance to play and study abroad at the same time. After a trial with Bradford City ran into work permit roadblocks, Eissele looked outward.
The U.S. U20 MNT is currently in Australia gearing up for this month’s World Cup with a series of friendly tune-ups. The first came against Australia, which ended in a 2-1 result for the Americans on Monday night.
We only have a few brief glimpses as to how the game went (it wasn’t streamed or televised and the highlights package is less than two minutes long), but there are two things to look at here. On the first goal, Tommy Thompson’s in-pinching run from right to left will roughly approximate his work area in New Zealand, and Joel Sonora’s beautiful curler is a good look for a player trying to crack the XI. With a spot in the midfield ostensibly open, he could well be in the starting lineup for the opener against Myanmar.
But the more interesting question is who starts up top, and Maki Tall is making a compelling case for coach Tab Ramos. After scoring in his U20 debut in late March, Tall’s been slowly turning the wheel of public opinion in his favor, and his goal here should help in that regard. This was a bad mistake at the back on Australia’s part, but it couldn’t have happened without Tall’s press, and that finish was cool as you like.
This team was in desperate need of a consistent striker in qualifying. It may have found one in Maki Tall.
France’s Zinedine Zidane is arguably most famous for The Headbutt Heard ‘Round The World, but to me his most iconic moment was the panenka he somehow managed to pull off in the final of the 2006 World Cup. Pure brass.
Zidane’s fast-rising son Luca is a keeper, so it’s safe to say he hasn’t gotten many opportunities to emulate dear ‘ol pops in an actual game setting. But he did in the semifinals of France’s U17 World Cup qualifying campaign this week. And it did not go well.
I have to do something. The vampires are chasing me. I have to start winning games or I die. The tiny men stealing my underpants at night whisper it to me in the deep tongue of Mordor before leaving my room on Tuesdays. Did I imagine that? Was that a South Park episode mixed with Lord of the Rings lore? It’s literally impossible to know at this point.
The process of turning on the PS4 now to re-inhabit this terrifying world of werewolves and puking defenders and Esteban Cambiasso’s bald head following me into my dreams – THIS IS NOT A JOKE BY THE WAY – involves a lengthy ritual. There is the alcohol. And then there is the sigh.