English Premier League

Battle for 1st, 4th and Relegation

Every Premier League season generates great interest in the table for three reasons: The title race, final Champions League spot and relegation battle. The strength of the Premier League squads as they stand lend themselves to each of these races perfectly. To me, there are three tiers of Premier League teams, with each tier competing in one of the three races.

Title Race:

Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City.

I would not be surprised if it comes down to the last couple of fixtures to decide the title between these three.

Final Champions League Qualification:

Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham.

Everton and Tottenham will be very organized, strong squads with not quite enough firepower to hang with the big guns in the table. I think Sturridge and Sterling will be fantastic for Liverpool but ultimately, no one can replace the Suarez of last year – bites aside. Van Gaal seems confident with Manchester United and their meaningless preseason form.

Relegation Battle:

The other 13 teams.

None of the other 13 teams are strong enough to clearly separate themselves from the pack. Newcastle and Southampton each had promising runs to begin the season last year, which secured their safety. Southampton was gutted in the transfer window and Newcastle’s overhauled lineup is a work in progress. I expect this to be a wide open scramble to stay up in the Premier League.

Predictions:

Arsenal lead a majority of the season, but Chelsea Win Premier League title. Van Gaal’s Manchester United make a strong push to get fourth place and get back into the Champions League. Southampton and West Brom seem like great candidates to go down, but in the end, Burnley, QPR, and Crystal Palace will be relegated.

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World Cup Analysis

Group Stage Round 1: Three Key Thoughts

The initial 16 games are in the books. (Let’s act like Brazil and Mexico haven’t played their scoreless draw yet) It’s been a whirlwind of a week. It’s a tough life consuming 24 hours of football over 6 days… but someone has to do it. There should be a day off tomorrow to denote the next round of group matches, but I would run the risk of being too efficient at work. These are my quick thoughts on the tournament so far:

1. Goals. 3.09 per match so far. It’s a popular theme in the American media to praise the amount of goals being scored. If goal scoring is up, casual fans will be interested and TV ratings will follow a similar path. I’m just excited the popular theme is not about a crazy, uncontrollable ball, such as the Jabulani from South Africa. Although the heat and humidity conditions are a popular mention, it doesn’t necessarily breed unexciting football. Generally, the start of a major tournament can be lackluster. Teams play conservatively, not minding a draw. With the exception of a couple of matches, the run of play has been wide open and free flowing. 

2. It’s natural to overreact, but don’t. Writers have to be salivating at a shot to dig into the end of the Spanish dynasty, the massive meltdown of the Portuguese squad, or the demise of Uruguay while their polarizing star looks on. Expect these teams to bounce back. These teams have all been here multiple times before and are too talented to fold after one bad result.

3. ESPN is the big winner. American fans can be dismissive of watching or supporting “soccer” for a number of reasons. Ties, low scoring, USA is not elite, flopping, lack of masculinity, etc. These reasons are scapegoats for the lack of interest in the U.S.A. To those casual fans – This has been a high scoring, only twice drawing tournament featuring a broken nosed Dempsey helping the USA win. Not only can point to real solutions to those issues based on the initial 16 matches, we can resolve the real issue why football is not as popular in the United States relative to the world. We don’t have it shoved down our throat on ESPN like we do baseball, basketball, and american football. Casual fans don’t know 20 of the 23 United States squad members because they don’t play their club games on American television. There are a lot of reasons why football isn’t on ESPN more, but with the World Cup, we get non-stop coverage. Americans have no choice but to get interested. We will gradually accept anything that is pushed on us. (See most all of pop music radio) It just really helps American interest when we have such a fantastic start to the World Cup. A start that nixes the aforementioned issues from casual fans. 

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World Cup Analysis

John Anthony Brooks

The name alone seems like a historic serial killer, not a historic goal scorer at the World Cup. It was literally – the unlikeliest of goal scorers. A player making just his fifth cap for the United States team; Only in the game due to an injury.

I had professed before the game started: This Ghana fixture would ultimately define the Klinsmann era. It goes without saying that there is not a shot at advancing from this group with a tie or a loss in this game. In the past, the United States would have no business advancing from the Group of Death. Jurgen has talked about doing things differently and changing the culture of American soccer for four years now. What better way to change the culture than beating a team who eliminated the two preceding coaches? 

Jurgen’s recruitment of German/American dual nationals has been scrutinized in the media. However, each team in this tournament has more than one dual national on their squad. The recruits, combined with the confidence he puts in other young American players, have bolstered this team. In truth, the talent pool to choose his 23-man roster was exponentially greater than any previous World Cups. That is a genuine compliment to Klinsmann’s approach. In fact, the talent to choose from last month was strong enough to leave the American Hero, Landon Donovan, off the roster. This move put his ultimate stamp on the U.S. team. No player is greater than the team. His team-before-player philosophy couldn’t have been displayed in a more positive light today. Two injuries brought in two young, promising squad members who played with as much confidence as Landon himself.

Many casual fans would point out how Ghana maintained possession most of the match – that the U.S. team stole a victory late. The truth is, the game changes when you go up a goal. Even if the tactics are still to attack, it’s a natural instinct to protect that lead. As I referenced in my previous post, this game was never going to be about tactics. The narrative of revenge on Ghana ran too deep through this American squad. This was all about heart. Portugal will be a different battle, but for a night, let’s savor this victory. 

In a way, John Anthony’s goal in the 86th minute epitomized the Jurgen Klinsmann era. A nameless, young, confident German/American dual national came off the bench to finally conquer Ghana. 

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World Cup 2014

Where Will You Be At 6PM Eastern Tomorrow?

usmnt

This is obviously the one team I cannot watch without a bias.

The last two world cups have ended in heartbreak for the Americans – both at the hands of Ghana. Four years after an extra time goal that still keeps me up night, we have a shot at redemption. You either do not care for sport or do not have a pulse if this isn’t exciting. Our men’s squad is definitely a deeper and more robust roster than four years ago. I can write several paragraphs on why, but it doesn’t matter. Ghana is not afraid. This will be war.

I contemplated pacing around my living room alone nervously for hours tomorrow, but that is not what this tournament is about. I am going to a local soccer bar – not inviting any of my personal friends – just arriving alone to unite with other American fans. This is what the World Cup does. For two hours, life worries are brushed aside. Get excited, America. Everybody – do your part.  I will be consuming alcohol at noon while sporting blue suit pants, a white button up, with a red tie.

I cannot think of anything more American.

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