Are you feeling down about the United States men's national team World Cup group draw? Do you feel like some global conspiracy plopped Jurgen Klinsmann's boys into the Group of Death? Are you already having dark, twisted fantasies about the U.S. squaring off against Klinsmann's home country of Germany, and Klinsmann deciding, right before kickoff, that Landon and Bradley are looking a little peaked and maybe it's time to see if Kyle Beckerman can handle the midfield in the 7-1-2 formation that Klinsmann invented right there on the spot? Do you feel like the Stars and Stripes will be making a sequel to Up in the Air called Up in the Air II: Holy Crap, Brazil Is Huge, traveling nearly 9,000 miles during their group campaign? Is this all making you wonder whether America is really the chosen country Bono said it was on The Joshua Tree? Here's what I say to that …
Ryan Giggs is gently juggling a football. He looks slight and pale, and is looking down intently at the ball through his floppy fringe. You’d think he was doing so shyly until you see how relaxed his shoulders are. Thousands of people are watching him and the cameras are rolling, but the 17-year-old Giggs ignores them, slow dancing with the ball.
Two decades later, the footage from that moment will crop up in a montage at the start of Class of 92, a documentary about Giggs and his peers — David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville — from the famous Manchester United FA Youth Cup–winning team of 1992. The shot will be nestled among a flood of broadly contemporary images of Poll Tax riots, early Oasis gigs, royal divorces, Conservative prime ministers — and soundtracked by a song by James, the indie wing of the Acid House–infused music that swept Manchester (and, Mancunians will tell you, the world) at the start of the '90s.
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Chris Ryan: Tensions flared this week, folks, and I'm not talking about the time you mistakenly brought up Obamacare in front of your sister-in-law. Belts got a little tighter, and I'm not talking about your belt after you ate that third piece of pecan pie. No, I'm talking about England, where Thanksgiving is called "Thursday," and belt-tightening and tensions flaring are just what happens at this time of year, as the games come fast, the injuries pile up, and tempers get short.
Earlier this year, after a particularly fractious clash between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, I wrote a piece calling this MLS’s most interesting rivalry — not the fiercest, not the most historically relevant, but the most interesting. Why interesting? Because it had arisen out of the way the teams play. Now we have the chance for a very public referendum on which style works better, as the two clubs are due to meet in the MLS Cup final at Sporting Park on December 7.
The Designated Player has all the sweet hook-ups. So this week, when Twitter began rumbling that Orlando City were about to be confirmed as the 21st MLS club, entering the league in 2015, there was only one man he wanted to speak to.
The DP swiftly called up Ray Hudson (“Hi DeeeeePeee”), former coach of the defunct Miami Fusion, professional Geordie, and current much-loved idiosyncratic commentator for beIN Sports, to get his take on the revival of Florida’s soccer fortunes. Apologies for the spelling. Blame the useless Siri app on the DP’s phone. Also, some of the metaphors jump around a bit, but that’s Ray, not the technology. As Ray himself put it, “Leaping like a salmon, my logic is like Riohhhh Ferdinand on the morning of a drug test. Like Neetsheee telling us God is dead, sipping tea on the pastor’s patio.”
At kickoff, the little man was not in the building. As his Argentina teammates lined up to battle Ecuador at MetLife Stadium on Friday night, Lionel Messi and his otherworldly talent were in Barcelona recovering from a hamstring tear that will sideline him for the rest of the calendar year. But the game must go on, especially when the game is part of the Gillette International Soccer Series, a number of friendlies between talented international squads like Brazil, Chile, and Honduras hoping to make a quick buck in the United States.
Even without their talisman, La Albiceleste brought a powerful side to New Jersey, featuring Messi's Barca teammate Javier Mascherano, Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria, and the Manchester City duo Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Aguero, among others. It was the evening's second team, however, that was the focus of the fans. The New York City area boasts a high percentage of Ecuador expats — here's more than you could ever want to know about Little Ecuador in Corona — and their yellow jersey–clad fans made up the majority of the crowd in place at the beginning of the match. (MetLife's first sellout was a 2010 friendly between Ecuador and Mexico.) In defense of the rest of the world, it was 49 degrees at kickoff, the temperature was dropping, and, we'll state this again, Messi wasn't in the building.
In January 2006, Freddy Adu was 16 years old and training with the United States senior team for the first time. Head coach Bruce Arena called the starlet into the team's January camp, a three-week training stint that played a massive role in determining who would make the roster for the upcoming summer's World Cup in Germany. Adu's youth and inexperience made him a long shot to earn a spot, but he had a chance to impress.
So after a frantic week, the playoffs are nearly done. From 10 hopeful teams we’re suddenly down to four, and among the teams out of the running, there are a whole heap of autopsies already under way — especially in New York, L.A., and Seattle.
After a frenetic burst of games seemingly every other night, we’re halfway through the conference finals, but now face a two-week wait before the second legs.
The four weary teams remaining are now trundling slowly across the plateau toward the final on December 9, and this seems as good a time as any to catch our breath and ask, “What just happened?” In particular, I want to look at the teams that just left us, because we never really had a chance to say good-bye.
For those of you who have given Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign a miss, you didn't miss much. Ireland, under Giovanni Trappatoni, may have gotten within a Thierry Henry handball of the 2010 finals and qualified for last year's European Championships (where they didn't get out of the group stages), but the popular perception of them as a side slowly deflating from international relevance was compounded by a thoroughly indifferent World Cup 2014 campaign.