Permit me to step away from the news for a second. A friend sent me this picture yesterday of himself and his baby boy at a Seattle Sounders game. It got me thinking about the future of American soccer. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in good hands.
My friend never went to a soccer game before moving to Seattle. Now, he talks about the Sounders nonstop. He even started bringing his child — earphones and all — to matches. You better believe that boy will grow up a fan of the beautiful game.
Drew Carey and the gang did something important in Seattle: They built an environment that works for all kinds of diehards. This isn’t new news, but the ramifications are perhaps overlooked. We can talk all we want about the need for soccer-specific stadiums (and I totally agree), but what we really mean is we need incredible soccer environments. Seattle has one. Montreal has one. Portland has one. Etc. Etc. Now Houston has one with the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium, making 6 soccer-specifics in 2 years. They are spreading around MLS.
One big advantage of MLS is the price. It’s significantly cheaper than other sporting events, both for individuals and for families. The key is getting people to go once, then return again.
The point here is the future of the game in the United States is tied to the future of the country as a whole: The Kids. The sport needs to win them over early and that happens on an individual experience level. Last weekend’s fantastic EPL finish was great for the game in the US, but that excitement only lasts so long (and comes once every, well, basically never). Going to a game with an incredible atmosphere will keep kids and their families coming back, even if they were not soccer fans initially.
Just ask my buddy’s kid. You know, as soon as he learns to talk.
Monaco has slapped a massive price tag on Bernardo Silva, and The Times says that isn’t stopping Chelsea.
Antonio Conte is trying to land the 22-year-old Portuguese attacker according to the report, which says that the Blues are already chatting up the Ligue 1 outfit.
[ MORE: Wenger’s Sutton pitch worry ]
Silva has six goals and seven assists in France’s top flight this season, adding another three in the UEFA Champions League. He did not appear at EURO 2016 thanks to a hamstring injury, as Portugal won the Henri Delaunay Trophy.
Chelsea is ready to spend $88 million on the right winger, who can also play in a attacking center mid role. From The Times:
Monaco would like to secure a minimum of €80m (£68.4m) for Bernardo, who is comfortable operating on either the left or right wing or as a number 10. With Barcelona, Real Madrid and both Manchester clubs also expressing their interest Monaco, who play Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday, believe a money-spinning auction may develop.
Transfer prices can be hard to predict, but is Silva the sort of talent that will tempt nine figures? We’ve been surprised before, and at his age it’s possible, but color us skeptical.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.
[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]
Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.
Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.
Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.
PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.
Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.
[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]
PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.
[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]
Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.
PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.
Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.
Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.
The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.
[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]
However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.
Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.
“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.
In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.
“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.
“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”