footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Archive for November, 2013

World Cup 2014: The Teams are Set

With the playoffs concluded, we now know which teams will compete in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as well as those that won’t (sorry Sweden and Egypt!)

A certain Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the playoffs and sent Portugal to the finals with a memorable hat trick performance against Sweden. Some may call Portugal a one-man team, but if that man is CR7, should they even care?

In the 8 months between now and the start of the tournament on June 12, fans of the qualified countries will veer between giddy optimism and morose despair about their teams’ prospects – depending on things like player injuries (which hopefully will be few and far between) and friendly results.

Obviously, it’s too early to say who’s a favorite or who will win (the Group Stage draw takes place December 6). At this point, though, it’s time to just enjoy the fact that your team’s qualified (or lament that it did not). It’s also key to remember that a lot can happen between now and June 12.

Quick Hits: The Weekend That Was

  • I hate these weekends when both Chelsea and Manchester United prosper. (Y’all know my feelings on those two teams).
  • Cannot believe that in 90+ minutes of football that my Everton couldn’t beat freakin’ Crystal Palace. I’m kind of glad I missed that game.
  • Nobody got the upper hand in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, as Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo played to a 0-0 draw. Let’s see if someone does in the Western Conference semis’ first leg between Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake. Gotta say, though, it’s hard to get excited about the MLS Cup Playoffs now that my New York Red Bulls are out (*sad face*)
  • PSG is streaking away from Monaco in the Ligue 1 standings, but I’m more intrigued by Lille’s move up to second place.
  • This week brings us another international break. And y’all know my feelings on those as well.

Matchday 4 – Gettin’ There

The round of 16, that is.

When we last left the UEFA Champions League, groups were just starting to take shape. Now that we’re more than halfway through the Group Stage, teams are starting to qualify for the round of 16. Specifically, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City have all qualified. Lots of other teams – Real Madrid, Arsenal – are thisclose to qualifying.

My takeaways from matchday 4:

  • Zenit St. Petersburg still looking like they can qualify from Group G, but more to the point – Atletico Madrid is running away with that group.
  • Juventus kept their qualification hope alive by coming back to draw 2-2 with Real Madrid. But they’re still at the bottom of Group B.
  • The “Whoa!” result of the round: perennial whipping boys FC Copenhagen beat Galatasaray 1-0.
  • Even more “Whoa!” Arsenal went to Borussia Dortmund’s ground and defeated the home side 1-0. Will be interesting to see which of the fancied teams – Napoli, Dortmund, Arsenal – won’t survive the Group of Death.
  • Poor Real Sociedad have earned one point from four games. *smh*
  • Meanwhile, Chelsea…yeah, sorry. I ran out of fucks to give.

Things are shaping up such that the last 2 matchdays will actually matter.

Tomorrow, the Europa League continues. I will try hard not to treat it like the red-headed stepchild.

MLS Cup Playoffs are Upon Us

The final weeks of the MLS regular season always strike me as frantic. Teams are jockeying for playoff spots, Supporters Shield honors and seeding and the home field advantage that goes along with it. This year was no different.

Now that is all behind us, and the actual playoffs have begun. Well, the play-in games have taken place (Seattle Sounders bested Colorado Rapids last night in the Western Conference play-in, and Houston Dynamo defeated Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference version earlier tonight). With all the playoff teams decided, the real, two-legged playoffs begin (Is it any wonder I find the MLS Cup playoff structure annoying). Conference semi-final followed by conference final followed by MLS Cup final.

Unlike other club soccer competitions like Uefa’s Champions League and Europa League, the MLS Cup Playoffs actually are a complete toss-up. Any of the 10 teams that make it to the post-season can lift MLS Cup when all is said and done (Contrast that with the Champions League, where only a handful of – very wealthy – teams has a realistic shot at winning – or even making the final).

The first year I followed the MLS Cup Playoffs closely (2010), I watched New York, Los Angeles and other “fancied” teams lose early, then watched FC Dallas (the favorite heading into the final) lose to the Colorado Rapids in what turned out to be a truly awful final game. (It wasn’t awful because it featured no teams I was rooting for; the quality of the soccer was terrible).

All of which is to say, I won’t be predicting a winner at any level of this competition because it is way too hard to predict. But the table is set for some truly intriguing matchups.

  • New England Revolution vs. Sporting Kansas City
  • Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
  • Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls
  • Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake
Am I proud of my New York Red Bulls for winning the Supporters Shield to claim their first trophy ever? Yes!
Do I fear for them as they take on the suddenly surging Houston Dynamo? Absolutely!

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