Category - Blog

Two Nights, Two Games, Two Worlds

Dick's Sporting Goods Park

Over the Memorial Day weekend I had the chance to attend two soccer matches at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park just outside of Denver, Colorado.  This was part of my super soccer weekend as along with watching the Champions League final, I attended the MLS match between the Colorado Rapids and Philadelphia Union on Saturday night and an international friendly between Brazil and Panama on Sunday night. Both nights were fun and entertaining in their own way but stark differences could be seen between the two nights in terms of the style of play and the crowd which made it seem I was in two different world’s each night even though I was sitting just sections apart.

The MLS match was a more suburban crowd while the International game was a more diverse and eclectic group. Both nights had about 11,000 in attendance but the vibe and feeling around the stadium was much different than the night before. You could tell the Brazil – Panama crowd understood the game better and reacted to all significant plays on the pitch not just those that resulted in scoring chances. This is just part of the soccer evolution here in the United States and as the game matures and people become more familiar with it they will learn the nuances of it and understand the game at all levels as the general public does with American football.   

On the field is where the differences between these two nights were the most noticeable. MLS loves them a long ball and on the very first kick of the night to open the Rapids and Union match, Philadelphia needlessly hoofed the ball down the pitch into the arms of the Colorado goalkeeper. While in the Brazil and Panama match the Latin style of play was in full effect with the ball being played on the ground. The only time the ball was in the air was on corners, deep crosses and when fullbacks were switching the flank. This is where the US based player needs to improve greatly if the United States is ever to truly compete at the highest international level. Brazilian and Panamanian players are comfortable receiving the ball in space or under pressure on virtually every spot of the field. Too often MLS players will hoof the ball to no one in particular when under any amount of pressure.

This all goes back to individual training, coaching and youth development. The Unites States and MLS need to increase their ability to improve players in these areas if they want to have a more nuanced and tactical style of game and player. That is the exact style of player USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann wants but this process (as we know) does not happen overnight. It will take a significant amount of effort and time for the US to improve in these areas.  I’m not saying the US and MLS needs to emulate exactly the style of other leagues around the world to be successful. Soccer is the beautiful game because there are a multitude of paths to success and the sport would be boring if everyone approached things the same way as we often see in American professional sports. It is clear though the level of on the ball skill for both teams and players needs to improve in order for MLS and the USMNT to take the steps forward we all want.

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Pro Rel Week Review

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Last week a few like-minded individuals and groups organized a grassroots level campaign to promote the practice of promotion and relegation through the creation of Pro Rel Week. This was done to coincide with the US Open Cup and the last week of most European domestic seasons where the actual promotion and relegation occurs. Many outsiders have labeled our efforts a “failure” but I would disagree and would label #ProRelWeek a smashing success. We accomplished exactly what we set out to do by making the topic a discussion point on social media, pubs, television and radio.

Last week beIN Sports and XM Radio had promotion and relegation discussions that no doubt were put into motion due to our campaign. Furthermore supporters all across the country took to US Open Cup matches with “Promotion Relegation USA” banners and “#ProReleForUSA” scarves. This event will return next year and will grow due to our initial efforts as American’s demand that stories like Leicester City in England and Eibar in Spain become possible here.

Below are some of the best pictures from #ProRelWeek, I hope you enjoy them!

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Barnsley Wins The Football League Trophy

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Over the weekend silverware was handed out at Wimbley that you probably did not know about.  The Football League Trophy final commonly known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (hooray sponsorship) was contested between Barnsley and Oxford United. The football league trophy is a competition open for the 48 clubs in the Football League (League One and League Two) the third and fourth divisions of English football. The competition was founded in 1983 and the most successful club in the competition’s history has been Bristol City who has won the trophy three times (1986, 2003 and 2015) with two more final appearances in 1987 and 2000.

Heading into this year’s contest Barnsley was seventh in League 1 with 62 points and Oxford City was second in League 2 on 73 points. The final saw Oxford take a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute on a header by Callum O’Dowda a twenty year old Oxford United academy product who has represented Ireland at the U21 level. Oxford would see the 1-0 lead last until the 52nd minute until an own goal by defender Chey Dunkley that leveled the game at 1-1.

Barnsley added two more goals of their own with Ashley Fletcher (68’) and Adam Hammill (74’) getting on the score sheet to take a 3-1 lead. The goal by Hammill was the eventual game winner as Oxford United pulled one back in the 76th minute on a Danny Hylton header to make it 3-2. The U’s were not able to send the final into extra time though and Barnsley won their first ever game at Wembley lifting the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in front of 34,000 Barnsley fans. This is a day The Tykes fans are sure to remember for a long time and more could be on the way with the prospect of a promotion  playoff still to come.

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15/16 EPL Remaining Strength Of Schedule

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The all important run in is upon us with the final 10 games of an unpredictable EPL season in the cards. Which clubs will be able to move up the table in this stretch and which clubs might see their hopes dashed? Find out in the Two Daft Yanks remaining strength of schedule analysis!

In terms of the title contenders Leicester City, Tottenham and Arsenal all have middle of the road schedules with the 8th, 9th and 10th easiest remaining schedules respectively.  This strength of schedule analysis is based on the opponent home and away goal differential splits and then totaled up for a comprehensive number not for statistical purposes but to establish an order of magnitude.

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15/16 EPL Remaining Strength Of Schedule

Based on the analysis above Tottenham seems to have the most balanced schedule as they are the only contending club with opponents carrying a negative goal differential both home and away. Leicester has a somewhat challenging away schedule facing games against Manchester United (+12) and an improving Chelsea side (+5). Arsenal’s away schedule is even more demanding with games vs Tottenham (+15) and Manchester City (+18). Both Arsenal and Leicester do have fairly easy home schedules though and it will be key for both sides to come away with three points at home in their winnable games if they are to lift the Premier League trophy in May.

Between the main three title contenders there isn’t a whole lot to separate them and they will have to play well to hold off Manchester City who is 10 points back of Leicester but have the fourth easiest schedule at -19.

In terms of the relegation battle, Aston Villa and Sunderland both have challenging schedules placing them both in the top six in difficulty. Aston Villa faces three tough road tests versus Manchester City (+18), Manchester United (+12) and Arsenal (+9) which all but ensures their relegation. Sunderland face an up hill battle as well with the second most difficult schedule in the league with a total +26 rating in favor of their opponents.

Norwich and Newcastle have great opportunity to avoid relegation if they can take advantage of their remaining relatively easy fixtures. Norwich has the easiest remaining schedule in the league (-50) including home six-point matches against Newcastle (-25) and Sunderland (-20). While Newcastle travels to Aston Villa (-12) and hosts Sunderland (-20) in their own six-point matches.

Do the numbers on the schedule presented above change your mind on who may win the title or who might be relegated? Let us know!

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