footy musings from a (relative) newbie

My feelings on international breaks are well documented, which is why I am oh-so grateful for the return of club football. 3 things to look for this weekend:
  • Friday Night Fun*: There’s something neat about Friday night Bundesliga games. I sit at work wistfully wishing I could watch. Mainz 05 host Borussia Dortmund in the game that starts matchday 9 of the Bundesliga. New Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel will be taking on his old team for the first time. What hijinks will ensue?
  • Kop @ the Klopp: Technically, Liverpool is playing Tottenham at White Hart Lane, but like everyone else, I want my Kop/Klopp wordplay, and I will have it, dammit. The Bearded Messiah will have his first league game as Liverpool manager, with  Tottenham keen to spoil the party.
  • Inter Milan vs. Juventus (aka Derby D’Italia): I don’t watch a ton of Serie A, but I’m always up for these big matches. And with Inter in 2nd place and defending champions Juve in 12th, there’s lots at stake.
*Technically, Friday afternoon for us Stateside folk.

It’s that time of year again…

…when we all get giddy at the sound of this theme song.

Matchday 1 is in the books. What have we learned?

  • Not only is Angel Di Maria loving in life in Paris, he got the honor of having the first Vine-able goal of the Champions League season
  • AS Roma might could maybe be my Serie A team after Alessandro Florenzi’s delicious long-range goal against Barcelona. I’ve been feeling Roma since they beat Juventus a few weeks ago, but we’re still just talking. We’re not going together yet.
  • Also, Premier League gonna Premier League in Europe.

Speaking of which, on the shade front, Soccer Twitter was in rare form

As the season goes on, I’m sure there’ll be more where that came from.

Onto Matchday 2!

Manchester United lose 2-1, just like my other hated team, Chelsea. This is the type of football weekend that doesn’t come around often, so trust that I’m going to savor it.

Next up, an international break. Y’all know my feelings on those.

  1. It’s too damn long.

  1. Arsenal can’t never get a break.

3. You CAN go home again. 

I can’t predict anything until a ball is kicked (how’s that for hedging), but here’s how the groups shook out.

Group A

PSG

Real Madrid

Shakhtar Donetsk

Malmo

Group B

PSV

Man. United

CSKA Moscow

Wolfsburg

Group C

Benfica

Atletico Madrid

Galatasary

Astana

Group D

Juventus

Man. City

Sevilla

Monchengladbach

Group E

Barcelona

Leverkusen

Roma

BATE Borisov

Group F

Bayern

Arsenal

Olympiacos

Dinamo Zagreb

Group G

Chelsea

Porto

Dynamo Kyiv

Tel Aviv

Group H

Zenit St. Petersburg

Valencia

Lyon

Gent

What was it with this weekend and 3-0 wins? First My Everton beat Southhampton by that scoreline. Then My NY Red Bulls took care of Toronto FC 3-0 on Saturday night. And finally, Manchester City defeated Chelsea – again 3-0. This last result was by far the most delicious because it is exactly what Jose Mourinho’s punk ass deserved after his latest round of throwing some unsuspecting soul under the bus for his team’s on-pitch failings. His sourpuss during the match was a thing of beauty. Long may his scowling continue.

The Funky Table

Because we all know the Premier League table will look very different come next May.

1 Man City
2 Leicester
3 Crystal Palace
4 West Ham
5 Aston Villa
6 Liverpool
7 Man Utd
8 Chelsea
9 Everton
10 Newcastle
11 Southampton
12 Swansea
13 Watford
14 Bournemouth
15 Spurs
16 Stoke
17 Sunderland
18 Norwich
19 Arsenal
20 West Brom

I like to have the after-round-1 table as a reference point for when people start saying stupid shit as the season goes on – and they always do.

Chelsea ran away with the league and left us quasi-neutrals quite bored with the whole spectacle.

But a new season is upon us, and hope is again alive that Mourinho and Co. will crash and burn.

That’s right folks. Our favorite sports soap opera has returned.

I’ve read all the preview articles and listened to all the season preview podcasts. I’m heading out to a pub tomorrow morning to watch the first Everton game of the season (vs. Watford). All that’s left for me to do is predict my top 4 finishers for the end of the season.

Yeah, despite ample documentation of my terrible prediction skills, I’m taking it there again.

  1. Chelsea – I haven’t seen anything in the pre-season/transfer season to tell me that Chelsea won’t win this title again (yes, including the New York Red Bulls reserves beating them in a friendly)
  2. Manchester United – They’ve shored up a lot of their problem areas (except for defense). I have to think they’ll be better than they were last season, though I don’t really have any evidence to back that up.
  3. Arsenal – two years in a row of not having to go through a Champions League playoff? Why not?
  4. Manchester City – I’m bemused to see some picking them to win the title. Why? Because they signed Raheem Sterling?

Off to bed, as kickoff is at 9:00 a.m.

It’s been a minute (well, more than a minute) since I’ve posted. That’s partly due to being busy (new job, big vacation). But it was also due to not being inspired to write about football. The conclusion of the European season was so lackluster, I couldn’t think of anything significant to say about it (actually, I couldn’t think of a thing to say about it at all).

Summer soccer – specifically, Women’s World Cup – has me excited again. I wish I could say the same about the Gold Cup.

While I’m at it, I’ll throw International Champions Cup in the DGAF pile too.

But the thing that’s really entertaining me soccer-wise these days is the amount of shade being thrown within the soccer family.

You could say Pia Sundhage got the Summer of Shade off to a good start in this pre-WWC article in which she threw shade at several of her former charges in the USWNT.

“I said that to Abby,” she recalled. “I told her: ‘If I stayed, you would be a sub. The best sub ever. But a sub.’ There was no question about that in my mind.”

Oh damn.

Then Victor Valdes threw subtle shade in response to Louis Van Gaal’s accusation that Valdes refused to play for the Manchester United reserves last season.

In other MU Shade news, new signing Bastian Schweinsteiger had his own to throw in response Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer’s remarks that Basti wouldn’t be able to handle the Premier League and maybe should have gone to MLS instead.

“I don’t know when Beckenbauer moved to America, but I am 30,” Schweinsteiger said. “It is a challenge for me to prove I can do it here, but I am confident I can adjust to the Premier League.”

Well damn.

But the Shade Kings of this Summer of 2015 (at least so far) have to be the MLS players who took to Twitter last week with their thoughts on Commissioner Don Garber’s picks of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard for the MLS All Star Game  XI (Yes, the same Gerrard and Lampard who have played exactly one MLS league game between them).

Basically.

As I noted in a tweet of my own on the ASG

It’s that time of year again when teams once excited about being in the Champions League see their hopes of more Great European Nights™ swiftly dashed (So long, Liverpool. Fare thee well, Atletic Bilbao.) This is also the time of year when I tend to get philosophical about the Champions League and its much maligned sibling, the Europa League. Because this week’s match reports will invariably talk about how a team’s elimination means it’s been “relegated” to the Europa League. Often peppered in are references to the horror of having to play on (gasp!) Thursday nights.

What is with this belittling of the Europa League?

As I’ve written before, the Europa League – particularly in the knockout stages – can feature genuinely competitive matches played by teams who are truly hungry to show their quality on the European stage. I love the Champions League as much as the next fan, but let’s face it – the UCL increasingly features only a handful of teams who can hope to genuinely compete for the title, making the Europa League a far more attainable goal for the vast majority of European football clubs.

So, why denigrate it?

There are certainly aspects of the competition that can – and, IMO, should- be tweaked (For instance, teams exiting the Champions League at the Group Stage shouldn’t be allowed to join the Europa League) But it’s still a worthy competition and shouldn’t be diminished in an attempt to mock teams that have failed in the Champions League.

*steps off soapbox*

Anyway, draw day for both competitions is a few days away. I’d look forward to it more if I didn’t know Uefa was going to find new, dumb ways to drag out the draw ceremony.

It’s that time of year – when MLS teams start getting eliminated from playoff contention (so long, Impact de Montreal). When teams that were once dead and buried suddenly find themselves in the scrap for those precious playoff berths. When Seattle Sounders begin their annual implosion, and when the New York Red Bulls give me hope that this might be the year the can go all the way (And this year, those two things have coincided)
Last year, I wrote about how whiplash-inducing the MLS Playoff race can be, and it’s no different this year with just five games left in the regular season. I hate math, so I will not be breaking down how many points Team X needs to get into the playoffs, but kudos to the MLS website team for making The Race for the Red line a thing.

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