TAMPA, Fla. – I just got back from Raymond James Stadium and the field there in four words:
A big ol’ mess.
There are two ways to look at this:
- The sensationalized view (a.k.a., how they’d write about this in England)
The field really is squishy-level. That is, there’s water standing on certain parts of the field, and it’s pretty much soaked all over – which is why both teams were forced to relocate their day-before practices. The United States moved over to the University of South Florida.
I took the picture you see after one particularly fierce dog-soaker of a downpour. The field will drain, I’m sure, and may even be substantially more playable now, about two hours later. The problem is that more of the same is forecast for tonight and tomorrow, so there’s every possibility that it will look exactly the same at Friday’s kickoff (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
That’s not good for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co.
It’s like this: Antigua and Barbuda is clearly overmatched here. That doesn’t make it a fait accompli; the United States could still lose or draw. It’s just that it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances, a wildly uncommon alignment of universal elements, for the night to end with any outcome beyond U.S. victory. (And probably a lopsided victory, at that.)
But listed under “extraordinary circumstance” is a field that plays more like an Everglades swamp. That’s when some goofy result, some theater of the unimaginable, inches a little closer to fruition.
- The non-sensationalized, come-down-off-the-ledge view
It won’t matter.
Klinsmann’s assembly of talent is so far and above the collection from Antigua and Barbuda, where most of the players compete in the U.S. Soccer structure’s third tier – and aren’t even doing particularly well there.
Honestly, a couple of gators could float out onto the field as torrential downpours pelted the pitifully drenched 22 – and the United States should still be able to bank their three points from the night.
WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.
A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.
[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]
A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.
Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.
“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”
Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”
LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.
[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]
The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.
Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.
In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.
Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.
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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.
[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]
Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.
The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.
European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.
Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.
Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET