Category - Blog

Boxing Day A New American Tradition?

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Boxing Day, a secular Holiday that takes place the day after Christmas traditionally celebrated in the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth’s is not just for Britons anymore. Many Americans are also turning their eyes to December 26th and not for a “Christmas Box” that is given to those in public service (postmen and the like) for a job well done during the year. No, the United States the most sports hungry country in the world has caught on to Premier League football and most importantly the football that is held on Boxing Day.

The beginnings of football on Boxing Day can be traced back to 1860 when Sheffield FC and Hallam FC played a match that was won 2-0 by Sheffield. The presence of football on Boxing Day was further cemented in 1888 when Preston North End defeated Derby County 5-0 in the first season of the Football League. From 1888 to 1957 football was featured on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day and the 1957/58 season was the last one to feature a complete set of league fixtures on Christmas Day. The last English League match that was played on Christmas Day took place in 1965 that saw Blackpool defeat Blackburn 4-2. From then on Boxing Day has stolen the show with a full set of fixtures taking place almost every year since.

As I get older Christmas becomes less and less something that I look forward to. This is due in part to the commercialized version of Christmas in our modern society is aimed at children and unfortunately for me I am an adult who has to pay the bills and the like (doh!). Like most people I enjoy spending time with my extended family, exchanging gifts and gorging out on ham or turkey but that’s all secondary now. The real Christmas time attraction that I look forward to and circle the calendar for, is the hours of football I can enjoy on Boxing Day. There’s nothing better than waking up early on December 26th with the anticipation of 10 EPL matches on the same day. NBC Sports is set to cash in with wall to wall coverage of the football with a mixture of live games, highlight shows and match replays for the majority of the day on the network.

We really are spoiled as a country to have the access we do because not even in England will they have the opportunity to watch as much Premier League football on Boxing Day as us Americans will. It will be interesting to see how the TV ratings shake out, they will most certainly beat out MLS (low hanging fruit, I know) and if it is widely successful NBC may be well on their way to helping establish Boxing Day as a new American Tradition.

 

2015 Boxing Day Fixtures 

December 26, 2015
Stoke City 12:45 PM Manchester United
Swansea City 3:00 PM West Bromwich Albion
Aston Villa 3:00 PM West Ham United
Chelsea 3:00 PM Watford
Liverpool 3:00 PM Leicester City
AFC Bournemouth 3:00 PM Crystal Palace
Tottenham Hotspur 3:00 PM Norwich City
Manchester City 3:00 PM Sunderland
Newcastle United 5:30 PM Everton
Southampton 7:45 PM Arsenal

All Times GMT

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Champions and Europa League Draws

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With the group stages of the Champions and Europa League completed last week, all eyes turned to Nyon, Switzerland for the knockout stage draws. Here is what the absolutely randon draw and fate provided us for this coming February:

Champions League 

16 February & 9 March
Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)
Benfica (POR) v Zenit (RUS)


17 February & 8 March
Gent (BEL) v Wolfsburg (GER)
Roma (ITA) v Real Madrid (ESP)


23 February & 16 March
Arsenal (ENG) v Barcelona (ESP)
Juventus (ITA) v Bayern München (GER)


24 February & 15 March
PSV Eindhoven (NED) v Atlético Madrid (ESP)
Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) v Manchester City (ENG)

Europa League

Round of 32 draw

February 18th and 25th

Valencia (ESP) v Rapid Wien (AUT)
Fiorentina (ITA) v Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
Borussia Dortmund (GER) v Porto (POR)
Fenerbahçe (TUR) v Lokomotiv Moskva (RUS)
Anderlecht (BEL) v Olympiacos (GRE)
Midtjylland (DEN) v Manchester United (ENG)
Augsburg (GER) v Liverpool (ENG)
Sparta Praha (CZE) v Krasnodar (RUS)
Galatasaray (TUR) v Lazio (ITA)
Sion (SUI) v Braga (POR)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) v Schalke (GER)
Marseille (FRA) v Athletic Club (ESP)
Sevilla (ESP, holders) v Molde (NOR)
Sporting CP (POR) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Villarreal (ESP) v Napoli (ITA)
St-Étienne (FRA) v Basel (SUI)

 

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Mourinho: Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Chelsea--Jose-Mourinho-Press-Conference
Jose Mourinho

Mourinho is under pressure at Chelsea. Will he survive?


English punk rock group The Clash (with a slight lyric tweak) provides the tag line for this weekend’s most pressing Premier League question. Jose Mourinho, should he stay or should he go?

Chelsea the defending Premier League champions have registered just 11 points in 11 games and find themselves 15th in the league table. The results for Chelsea have been poor and the club is not defending and finishing their chances as they did last season when they only lost three out of 38 matches. It is November first and the Blues have already dropped six matches which is something no one would have predicted to happen on this calendar date entering this season.

While the play on the pitch has been sub-par for a club with the number of quality players in it’s squad, the behavior of Mourinho both on and off the touchline has been quite odd and cynical even for the “Special One’s” standards. Mourinho is clearly under pressure and looks like a manager who has ran out of ideas when being placed into a situation he has never encountered before. Sources say the under pressure manager held “crisis” talks with Roman Abramovich after yesterday’s Liverpool loss and the Portuguese manager has the two matches this week to save his job.

One sticking point for Chelsea sacking Mourinho could be the pay out that the club would have to pay to send Mourinho on his way. Just this last August the club extended Mourinho’s contract four years at a reported £9.5m per season. Meaning it would require Abramovich and the club to lay out upwards of £30-40m to pay Mourinho off. Although a report in the Mirror (take with a HUGE grain of salt) claims their is a clause in the contract that requires the club to only pay one year (£9.5m) of compensation. If this report true it could make the Russian billionaires decision to let Mourinho go much easier.

This is a complicated situation for Chelsea because they are less than six months removed from winning the title and in order to sack Mourinho it would be best to have another quality manager already lined up. Hiring an elite manager in November with Chelsea in the situation they are in could prove to be quite difficult. We will see what happens this week but one would have to guess based on the rumblings coming out of Stamford Bridge that Jose’s second stint at Chelsea will end sooner rather than later.

 

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USA Rolls Into Olympic Qualifying Semifinals

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Commerce City, Colorado – With the top of their group already clinched due to Canada drawing Cuba 2-2 in the previous match of the day at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Under-23 USMNT made it a clean nine out of nine points in their Olympic Qualifying group stage with a 4-0 win over Panama. The first half saw both sides feel each other out in a pretty even opening forty-five minutes but the U-23 USMNT sprung into life thanks in the second half thanks to two subs.

Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter came on at halftime in place of the injured duo of Gedion Zelalem and Maki Tall and both had an immediate impact on the match with their energy and off the ball movement. The scoring was opened in the 51st minute with an own goal by Panamanian defender Fidel Escobar. Then the the two substitute strikers scored a goal apiece with Kisewetter netting in the 53rd minute and Morris in the 56th to make it 3-0 USA. Luis Gil added a 71st minute penalty kick (which he earned after being taken down from behind in the box) to make it 4-0 and it was smoothing sailing from there on out for the Yanks.

The U-23’s now move on to the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying semifinals in Salt Lake City where they will take on the loser of Mexico or Honduras (in the case of a tie the US would play Honduras) for a chance to advance to the 2016 Olympic games hosted by Brazil. The USA did not qualify for London 2012 and making it to Brazil has been a top priority for Jürgen Klinsmann and US Soccer.  Andreas Herzog is three for three so far as the U-23 manager in this tournament and he will hope to make it four for four and win the only game that matters in order for American Olympic hopes to come true this coming Saturday.

Scoring Summary

USA –
51′ – Escobar (OG)
53′ – Kisewetter
56′ – Morris
71′ – Gil
———————
Panama –
None

 

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How Do Llagostera Compete?

LGT

Everybody remembers SD Eibar last year in La Liga. The small club who couldn’t possibly compete according to some soccer “experts” reaching Spain’s highest level who then received an eleventh hour reprieve from relegation following Elche’s administrative relegation to Liga Adelante. But there’s another club from an even smaller town in Spain that has a quicker, greater rise through Spain’s pyramid & shows the rare but possible progression a club can make in an open promotion/relegation system.

As much as wannabe, modern sports financiers and promotion/relegation opponents claims that Eibar couldn’t possibly compete, Eibar has been in at least Spain’s third highest level since 1986; some thirty years. In fact, Eibar has been in at least the second highest division in Spain for twenty-three of the last twenty-eight years. So, they have shown they can compete in the higher levels of Spain despite their small stadium capacity. In the case of Unió Esportiva Llagostera, or UE Llagostera, their rise through the Spanish pyramid is nothing short of remarkable.

Llagostera is a town with a population of all of 7,915 (2010) people. Llagostera was promoted to Liga Adelante for the first time last year becoming the smallest town to have ever had a club reach one of Spain’s highest two levels. I’m from Louisiana originally. This population would rank it about seventy-eighth in population of the state. In fact, Llagostera is so small that their home stadium, Estadi Municipal de Llagostera, with a capacity of 1,500 people, couldn’t be used by the club following their promotion to Liga Adelante because it didn’t meet minimum stadium requirements for the division. They were forced to play their home matches over thirty kilometers away in a town called Palamós. See, over there figure out solutions to problems instead of stamping their foot, throwing a tantrum screaming, “what shall we ever do because our stadium is too small and isn’t all-seater?!”

Llagostera’s rise is all the more remarkable because in 1997/1998 they were in Tercera Territorial or Spain’s ninth division. Yes, you read that right, the ninth division. That’s tantamount to you & your friends’ recreational team’s level. They won that league that year and were promoted to the Segunda Territorial of Catalonia where they spent seven years before being promoted to Primera Territorial in 2005 where they immediately were champions and were promoted to the Preferente Territorial of Catalonia or Spain’s sixth level. Llagostera spent two years at this level before being promoted as runners-up to the Primera Catalonia in 2008.

The Primera Catalonia is the highest provincial division where it would be similar to being county or district champions in a state in the US. Geographically speaking since obviously the United States doesn’t have state leagues involved in an open pyramid system. Here Llagostera spent only a year before being promoted to Spain’s fourth level, the Tercera Division.

In Spain’s Tercera Division, Llagostera met their demise & quickly went into extinction. Actually, that’s not what happened at all. They spent two years at this level before spending three years in Segunda División B following promotion in 2011. Now at Spain’s third highest level, Llagostera still soldiered on as the tiny club who “couldn’t compete” receiving promotion after winning their group in 2014. Last year in Spain’s second highest level, Llagostera, now sporting a massive 330,675 person stadium (not really), finished an impressive ninth.

So far in this current season Llagostera sits at the bottom of the table & looks to have a full on relegation battle on their hands this season. However, after rising seven levels in eighteen years it shows the possibility of how a club from a tiny town can reach heights undreamed of if given a chance. An honest, fair chance in an open system. Does it mean they will ever win a La Liga or Liga Adelante title? No. Does it mean all tiny clubs will reach these heights one day? Of course not. What it does show is the possibility of a remarkable story that would likely happen to some town or village here in the United States eventually if an open system was instituted. Not being able to compete forever with large clubs doesn’t mean you didn’t compete for a time. Why would anyone really be against a system like this?

Notes
– Llagostera has won four titles during their rise: 1998 Tercera Territorial group (9th level), 2006 Primera Territorial group (7th level), 2009 Primera Catalonia group (5th level) & 2014 Segunda División B Group III (3rd level)

– Llagostera has seven promotions since 1998: 1998 to Segunda Territorial group from Tercera Territorial group, 2005 to Primera Territorial group from Segunda Territorial group, 2006 to Preferente Territorial group from Primera Territorial group, 2008 to Primera Catalonia group from Preferente Territorial group, 2009 to Tercera División group from Primera Catalonia group, 2011 to Segunda División B group from Tercera División group, 2014 to Segunda División/Liga Adelante from Segunda División B group

– Llagostera currently has a player who goes by the Brazilian nom de guerre, Mosquito, who has been capped at several youth levels for Brazil

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