The World Cup is Gone; but Never Forgotten

Whether your team was in it or not (looking at you USMNT) , this World Cup was one to remember. Every game had goals, except that France vs. Denmark game which is better left forgotten anyways. In most cases, they had many goals as well. It seems there is no real story line here, just mostly a bunch of parallel story lines that either ended in disaster or in euphoria.

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Messi havin’ a laugh at his team’s performance.

The most notable of the story lines running rampant through this World Cup was Lionel Messi’s. There was immense pressure for the Argentine forward to produce a championship to his country, hearkening back to the days of Diego Maradona carrying the country on his back. However, the team performed closer to Diego’s less than graceful, and drug addled TV appearances this World Cup; hopeful that at some point everything will get back in order and be okay, when deep down you know it’s not gonna happen anytime soon.

The elimination of Messi and Ronaldo almost simultaneously could be a story in its own, two of the greatest to play the game ever and certainly of the past decade were absent from the business end of the biggest soccer event the world has to offer. Now we almost certainly will miss Ronaldo next World Cup, but we may have a old man Messi if we get lucky.

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Team reflects on consequences awaiting them if they lose.

Next story line on the list is the Russian team’s dream run to the quarterfinals where they were a couple penalty kicks away from a semifinal appearance. Yes, there is plenty of well earned speculation that the team could’ve participated in some major doping, however regardless of the country’s disturbing past it seems a great moment for the people of the country. After all they made it out of a group which made some predict only Uruguay and Egypt passing since the team had really been that atrocious before the World Cup. Regardless, the Russian people will be full of joy remembering the win against Spain and taking the eventual finalist Croatia to the brink.

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All smiles before Brazil.

Lastly, Group F’s struggles, largely considered to be the group of death, left everyone coming out of there reeling. The major point here was that Germany went out in the group stage for the first time since 1938. Their campaign started off rocky, one that inversely propelled Mexican hopes and dreams. Their own version of ‘its coming home’ was being sung. Unfortunately, the come down was as hard and fast as the ascent, after scraping past a formidable South Korea, Mexico just barely qualified after a terrible performance versus Sweden in which they lost 3-0. They would not have even pulled it off without an impressive South Korea win over Germany, in which they themselves thought they had secured a spot in the next round. This group was full of heartbreak and stress but all excitement.

Note: I could’ve talked about England and their whole run and how cool that is, but they get enough press, so I’m changing the narrative, no England, sorry.

The World Cup was successful and entertaining despite my own country’s shortcomings. From time of posting there’s only about 17 days until the start of the Premier League, and we’ll start this rodeo all over again.

-Manny (now returned from even longer temporary absence, life’s hard ok)

 

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Soccer Weekend Roundup

The favorite round up of this weekends soccer is here! There was a lot of action on both sides of the pond. Let’s get started with MLS this time.

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MLS

Friday night will be one to forget for Vancouver Whitecap fans. The Whitecaps went to visit Sporting Kansas City and came out with a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of what seems to be shaping up as the Western Conference’s top contender for MLS Cup. Russell got a hat trick and a spot on MLS’ team of the week. Another notable piece of this game, in a surprising decision after a VAR review, Efrain Juarez and Yordy Reyna got sent off for some after the play antics around the 40th minute, definitely contributed to the scoreline but not the whole reason (already 3-0 down).

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Another notable game was the LAFC’s comeback win at Montreal, a hard fought 3-5 scoreline. Ciman had an emotional return to his former club but in the end came away with the upper hand. This will help further get the team back on track to the form they were in before the dismantling by Zlatan. Remi Garde’s men also suffered from a red card but could not be the only thing to blame for the very poor defensive play, although not the worst of the weekend.

Some quick fire for the bulk of the weekend, the Concacaf Champion’s League effect is still in MLS as Toronto dropped another game protecting players for the important game against Chivas in the final. New York Red Bulls lost again, still feeling a hangover after the elimination they haven’t regained their footing.

Atlanta wins at LA Galaxy 0-2. Zlatan played all 90 but could not make the impact he wanted with a stunted lineup which didn’t include either Dos Santos brothers for most of the match. Atlanta did control the game however, and the offensive pressure they provided paid off in the end with a goal by Martinez. As the Galaxy pressed for an equalizer their defense was spread open and with a pass from Kratz to Williams who made his way into the LA box where he was taken down rather lightly, one could argue. Regardless, the penalty taken by Almiron was a dagger and the game was essentially over. Galaxy paid for their lack of offense, and the pressure on the Galaxy defense broke them and decided this game.

Sunday featured only two games, first was the miraculous Portland 3, NYCFC 0 win where Portland had only 25% possession. With some amazing saves from Gleeson denying the NYC players, Portland was able to capitalize on New York’s terrible defensive mishaps. However, when called upon Portland did show their finish, great win at home for Portland against the best team in the East. Lastly, Seattle wins their first game, to avoid worst start in franchise history, against Minnesota United by a score of 3-1. Alonso shows why he is instrumental to Seattle’s midfield and its composure. Also, Dempsey did not start showing that Seattle can make it happen without him, but he did make a great impact when he came in as a sub to contribute to Delem’s goal.

FA Cup

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Manchester United pulled off a great 2-1 win over Tottenham, and Spurs will continue without a trophy for another season. Alli’s flossing dance became the meme we needed but didn’t deserve, Mourinho showed why his game plan wins games, and every United fan’s crush on Ander Herrera exploded with his goal as well. The first goal of the game was scored by Alli after a great cross from Eriksen reached his foot and every United fullback went on holiday. However, it was United’s game after that, a Sanchez header caused by a terrible turnover from Dembele, then a big miscommunication for the Spurs back line and some questionable goaltending and it’s 2-1. The game is promptly closed out by Mourinho. One argument could be made that had Lloris been in goal, this could’ve been way different. I agree.

On the other end, Chelsea beat Southampton 2-0, not terribly unpredictable but it will be a great match to watch come May 19.

Thanks for reading!

Premier League Title “Race” Finished! Champions League Semi-Finals set!

The Champions Get Their Silverware

The long wait to see when City would clinch the title has finally ended, and in the most anti-climactic way. Yes, Manchester United lost to West Brom in embarrassing fashion, but in the end what they truly did is rob City of a romantic and glamorous finish to their amazing dominance of the Premier League. The league wasn’t clinched with a bang during the Manchester Derby, but with a whimper on the pitch with a surely relegated team from the West Midlands.

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“Silver Linings,” said West Brom Player

Of course, a title win is still a great accomplishment, especially in the Premier League where there’s so many worthy competitors. However, it seems to not have that same glow since it has been in City’s grasp for the past couple month’s. Also, isn’t this what every City fan expected when they got Pep Guardiola? Dominance in the home competitions and a regimented style of play. Furthermore, putting more of a damper on the win is the ugly exit from the Champions League to Liverpool (lost by an aggregate score of 5-1 for those unaware, more on that in a bit).

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[Pep’s Head] How do I do the smile again? Nailed it.
While City could not get that treble, they have played attractive football and won the league. A great building block for the next season and they seem to only be getting better. Also, it has created an interesting dynamic, where every achievement for Pep looks bad on Mourinho. Who knows how long the ‘Special One’ will last at this rate.

Champions League Quarters Review and Preview

(Quarterfinals)

AS Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 agg) Roma advance on away goals

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“Never Say Never” – Justin Bieber

Barcelona just completely unraveled in Rome, they had placed themselves in an amazing position to move on to the semi’s but just could not settle the game and create a productive possession. Barcelona had 57% of possession, yet only had 3 shots on goal (out of 9 total) compared to Roma’s 6 on goal and 17 shots overall. Obviously that’s not all that dictates productive possession but the stat sheet clearly tells a tale of good creation of chances for Roma. If Barcelona complete their invincibles run this is gonna be a major negative mark on the season, but on a positive note it has given neutrals a true underdog to root for in the semifinals.

Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool (1-5 agg)

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Mo Salah, Mo Problems

As mentioned earlier, Liverpool took apart City like no one would’ve expected. It seems like Klopp has had Guardiola’s number unlike anyone else in the Premier League, winning three out of the past five meetings. Not mentioning the one loss Klopp had to Pep with a score of 5-0.  It seems the high press of Liverpool, which at times hurts their defensive posture, is the perfect antidote to Pep’s controlled movement out the back, and it showed. Liverpool deserved to go through, maybe next time City will get a better match up, or adapt better to Klopp’s game plan.

Real Madrid 1-3 Juventus (4-3 agg)

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Breaking News: Ronald is good at penalties.

Real Madrid can take a deep breath, they’ll continue their streak of trips into the semifinals. However, it was not easy in large part to Juventus’ and Allegri’s great approach to going away to Madrid already down three goals. Simply put Zidane’s plan failed quite spectacularly, and in reality if Benatia had been more disciplined they could’ve been on their way to the semifinals and one of the favorites. While Madrid, unlike Barcelona’s gifting of three goals, was creating offense and chances, they weren’t as deadly as Juventus when it came to finishing, and Buffon was having a decent game. On the penalty drama, Buffon should’ve kept better cool, it was definitely a penalty and it was time to just do your best and get in goal.

Bayern Munich 0-0 Sevilla (2-1 agg)

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James “Robben isn’t the only one who can make a cut” Rodriguez

Bayern won ugly, but winning ugly is much better than losing beautifully. Perhaps that is also unfair to Sevilla who had shown against United they could be a disciplined and talented team. They frustrated the offense which found daylight in Manchester, and were simply the better team. Bayern were the favorites and that was never really in doubt, especially not after a late red to Sevilla’s Correa.

(Semifinals)

The match-ups have been released for the semifinals and from a neutral perspective will be pretty great.

AS Roma vs. Liverpool

Liverpool are definitely favorites for this one, in my opinion they can pull it off but it will depend on which defense shows up and whether Salah will be have his moments of brilliance against his former club which will be very familiar with him. Roma of course also received the best hope of getting to the finals with this draw, also this Champion’s League run may be a good way to salvage a rather lackluster Serie A performance.

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich

The heavyweights of the tournament will be against each other, and Real Madrid is definitely the safe bet if you’re a betting man, but this may not be the Bayern Munich of old. Jupp Heynckes has completely transformed this Bayern Munich team back into a confident dominant force to be reckoned with, and James may be looking to prove Zidane wrong for sending him away. People shouldn’t forget, last time Heynckes took the reigns of Bayern he won the treble and is in position to do so again.

Thanks for reading! Hope you liked this Rabble, there will be more coming up and definitely for FA Cup action this weekend.

Premier League Rundown

The hiatus is over, we’re back, again. The international window was long and a break for cup fixtures, all on top of a league race that us all but over. However, this week is the week to return from our Sports Rabble spring break. Manchester Derby, how could you not.

Drama at the Etihad! Manchester United come away with the 3-2 win destroying Pep’s second string team, the Fraudiola is revealed.

In all seriousness, Pogba just decided to go off on the City defense, two goals in 97 seconds. He made amazing passes to the right places and even put themselves in the right position to head it home.

A welcome surprise to all those that were shook after Pogba’s tweet following a response from Guardiola suggesting Pogba could’ve gone to the blue side of Manchester

However, the game would not be complete without a game saving reflex save from the United keeper. Aguero was in shock that it didn’t hit the back of the net. Now City will not win the league against rivals and will have to wait another two weeks, unless United lose to West Brom, which is technically possible.

Mourinho is definitely going to have the press off his back for a bit now, he’s won against both rivals and almost completely secured second place, and a Champions League spot. While the cross town blues will have the title, they’ll likely crash out the Champions League which would kill the hopes of several silverware coming home.

Herrera had a great individual game, and Lingard was a positive influence. The amazing part was that after the comeback United was able to maintain the lead, the game was over and City fans will be sent packing, and some even crying.

Other notable fixture, the Merseyside derby also was today. It ended 0-0. Good result for Everton and decent enough for Liverpool who has a crucial match in just a couple days against Manchester City in the Champions League.

Thanks for reading, the Premier League is winding down, but MLS is still ramping up and that’ll be back too, stick around.

Champions League Round of 16 (Day 8)

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The last day of the round of 16 stage was not very nice to a couple teams, because these were the most lopsided scores of the round of 16. Besiktas and Chelsea left this second leg with a much bigger deficit against them.

FC Barcelona 3-0 Chelsea (4-1)

While Chelsea had a lot more chances to score a goal than the scoreboard might suggest they definitely were a class below Barcelona. This happened for a couple reasons:

Umtiti had a monster game in Barcelona’s back line, those chances I referred to earlier, he wasn’t having any of it. If there is any chance of him leaving. pay him all the money.

Barcelona offense, Messi is a master of moving the ball like it is glued to his feet and putting himself into favorable positions, which is why he should get major credit for his goals. I say this because the second most responsible was Courtois. Messi put it between his legs at the near post, not once but twice, one of which was the fastest goal of his career. To put more credit to this offense, Dembele looked like he fit right back in with Suarez and Messi, however Suarez still has yet to score this year’s iteration of Champions League.

The Chelsea defense overall played well, Alonso and Rudiger had overall pretty good outings but they definitely got stretched out, throughout the match it can be more attributed to the push for a high line to catch up after being behind by so much. Conte is not having a great season, it currently looks like Chelsea are the most likely to be left out of the top 4, if this happens it makes it even more sure that Conte will most likely get sacked.

Besiktas 1-3 Bayern Munich (1-8)

The match was not something to be remembered but the only real star of the show at this game was the cat which made it onto the field. The stats show a pretty even game in terms of possession and shots on goal, however it is clear that Bayern was playing with house money and already had the fixture locked down. Bayern is cruising into the quarterfinals, and Besiktas had a good run.

That’s all for today, I was running a little short on time and I am still human, thank you for viewing!

Champions League Round of 16 (Day 7)

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Well this one hurt, if you’re a fan of English clubs in the Champions, or especially of Manchester United. And relief if you’re a AS Roma fan for finishing the job when called upon, something Manchester couldn’t quite figure out.

Manchester United 1-2 Sevilla FC (1-2)

Sevilla deserved this game, no doubt about it, but United clearly set themselves up for limited success from the start. As you can tell from the line-up United fielded Mourinho went with a 4-2-3-1 with Matic and Fellani as the holding midfielders. While Matic is a game changer, this was the first start for Fellani since he returned from injury and also shows the style of play that Mourinho wanted to proceed with. He went with the “kick long balls at the big guy to get forward,” which credit to him was somewhat effective since passing on the ground was made difficult with Sevilla locking down the passing lanes on the ground.

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It was a rather negative approach, but a Mourinho approach, and the offense never looked quite dangerous. Lukaku was doing great at the holdup play and Rashford kept bringing great runs down the wing, while Lingard was actually a bit quiet. I will note, starting Rashford was a great idea, and Lingard was somewhat in form so these were understandable.

Here’s where my criticism of the line-up comes in, Sanchez has been mostly unimpressive in league play and still doesn’t look fully settled, Mata had a much greater impact off the bench, or even Martial would’ve been a better option. The most egregious decision overall was Fellani in for Pogba, how many managers would dare leave their record transfer back from injury for FELLANI back from an injury. There was no excuse for Mourinho. As the line-up sheet shows, Mourinho threw everything into attack after the late goals from Sevilla with 15 minutes to go. It was too little too late, those players should’ve started and this one will be primarily on Mourinho. The players were also to blame as well because they had multiple missed opportunities.

As enjoyable as this might be for the rivals of United, once again English football will be poorly represented in the latter stages of the Champions League, which isn’t really great for any Premier League fans.

Oh and last note on this game, I don’t want to be too thick about the reasoning for the outcome of this game, but credit to Sevilla’s manager, Vincenzo Montella. Montella managed the game well, Sevilla came with a purpose and his substitute Ben Yedder completely changed the game. The criticism of United was just so strong because the last 15 minutes when they were playing catch up was the most inspired football they played all night making it very obvious they were capable of pressing the Sevilla defense, but it was much too late.

AS Roma 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (2-2) [Roma goes through on away goal advantage]

The second game of the night where Roma went home on the second leg and took care of business. Dzeko was great on the night, he played his game well playing on the backs of the center backs waiting for a ball to put him through.

Shakhtar had the majority possession during the game but really didn’t do much meaningful with it. They had zero shots on goal. Roma easily neutralized them but let them have the ball to not get caught on a break.

Great Champions League games, that were close throughout the match, but each victor earned their right to the quarterfinals. Tomorrow will be the last round of Champions League before the break, stay here for the review!

Champions League Round of 16 (Day 6)

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It’s a late post but here, and it’s time to cover the thrilling finale to Champions League action until next week.

Manchester City 1-2 FC Basel (5-2)

City jumped on to the #playyourkids movement this game. They lost this leg, but overwhelmingly won on aggregate. Gabriel Jesus continues his blazing form by notching in the first goal after some great team play. Basel responded with a fumbled ball in the box, Elyounoussi would then put into the back of the net. Lang would put another in at the 71st minute, but it was all they would muster up against City.

Statview of the game: Manchester City controlled the possession as they normally do, 78-22 in their favor. However, the shots on goal were even at three a piece. Lastly, Basel definitely had the edge at fouls, getting called on 11.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus (3-4) 

Spurs’ fans everywhere are gonna be up late thinking of what could’ve been in the next round. It all looked so promising and in true Spur’s fashion, that’s when it all went downhill. Son scored to put them ahead at home, and 3-2 on aggregate. Then the second half came around and Higuain took it upon himself to lead the comeback putting them level after a great cross, and a defense of statues. But things at this point are still okay, Spurs would still go through on the away goals.

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Spur’s fans at Wembley

Then bombing down the left side comes Paulo Dybala, the Argentine, Juventus forward. His finishing was great and put them even on away goals and ahead on aggregate. After this Allegri was content to trust his world class experienced defense to see the result out, and they did. Spurs still looked dangerous on the attack and were literally inches from scoring the equalizer which would send them to overtime, but it was not meant to be.

This one goes out to the Spurs’ fans, but Gigi Buffon fans will be happy to see the chance at a Champions League trophy is not completely gone yet. Next week, more Champions action, its gonna be great, come back here and be entertained. Thanks for reading!