On Wednesday, Bayern Munich and Málaga joined six other clubs in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Watching the games made me wonder how the United States national team would do if it were dropped into the group stage of the tournament. Would the Americans be able to finish in the top two of a four-team group featuring the Continent’s strongest sides?
I asked Earnie Stewart, former American midfielder and current technical director of Jozy Altidore's AZ club. Quite fairly, he more or less told me it was a ridiculous query. "They are not a club team. It's so very hard to compare international teams to club teams," he said. "It's totally different. The way you play. The responsibilities are different. Plus, there's the fact that it's something that's never going to happen. We're never going to have a national team in a club tournament."
Fair enough. Stewart — who has an actual, important job in soccer — has better things to do with his time than speculate about hypothetical tournaments. You know, like run a team. I, however, do not. So I set out to find an answer with the help of a couple of soccer journalist friends. (See: That thing about not having real jobs.)
The initial response was that the Stars and Stripes would struggle. "If you dropped the U.S. in and they hadn't trained together, they would get destroyed," says Zac Lee Rigg. "I think most national teams would. The World Cup is not as good quality as the Champions League is."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Tiger Woods birdied three of the last four holes, including a spectacular chip-in on the 16th, to win the Memorial and tie Jack Nicklaus for second all-time in total PGA wins. Nicklaus, who hosts the event, called the chip-in on 16th "the most unbelievable, gutsy shot I've ever seen." When the celebration died down, Nicklaus continued: "For the record, I have my memory wiped clean every morning by a special device to help ease the crushing fear of death. So, uh, take it with a grain of what am I thinking? Is it rice? A grain of rice? That doesn't sound right."
You might know Rob Stone as one of the reporters and play-by-play announcers for ESPN's soccer coverage, or from his appearances on The B.S. Report. Now get to know Rob as a gourmand, world traveler, and raconteur. On the road, overseas, with the U.S. Men's National Team, as it prepared for an international friendly match with Belgium, Rob filed this travelogue from Brussels.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Stephen Strasburg made his long-awaited return from injury for the Nationals, throwing five scoreless innings and getting a no decision in a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers. It's good news for the city of Washington, where the situation is so dire that if Strasburg had lasted another inning, he would've automatically become the House majority whip.
The U.S. men's national soccer team drew with its rival, Mexico, 1-1 in an international friendly on Wednesday night at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The game might have ended in a tie, but in the hands of new USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a manager whose communication skills make up for whatever deficiencies he might have as a field tactician, the result must be considered a kind of victory.