Soccer at Wrigley: When a terrible field is … kinda cool

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I absolutely cannot abide soccer fields of insufficient width or quality. Call me a soccer geek or soccer nerd or whatever, but it offends my 32-paneled sensibilities.

So I cannot say that I’m totally on board with these touring summer friendlies left to suffer temporary surfaces, which are adequate at their very best, downright dreadful and occasionally dangerous at their worst.

And that thing at Wrigley Field yesterday, a 62-yard-wide (they say … it may not have even stretched that far) was ridiculous. To bring a world class team like Roma over and ask them to play on a tiny field, and one that’s choppy due to the baseball configuration, is like asking an renowned artist to paint using his toes.

All that said …

I cannot get past being a little excited about soccer at Wrigley Field. I don’t feel good about it … but just can’t help it. I feel the same way about Fenway Park in Boston, another historic ground that will soon be the facility of choice for a globally branded soccer team. (For a day, that is.)

Soccer in this country does have history, something that’s too easily forgotten at times.

But it doesn’t have the deep and rich historical attachments that baseball enjoys. So, when our game is linked to that history, to the neighborhoods, to the culture, to the personalities, to the legends and the days and nights etched right into all that brick and mortar greatness, I have to say that does ring the bell of cool or me.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Check out some good work yesterday from CSN Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz, who shows us some of those cultural connections as he talks to Michael Bradley. And be sure to see the photo gallery, too.

Klopp’s Liverpool squad enthusiasm: “Everything is there”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp is unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC during a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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It isn’t Dortmund, but that’s a good thing for Liverpool.

Our own Joe Prince-Wright was on the scene for Jurgen Klopp’s unveiling as the latest Reds manager, and the 48-year-old German had a lot to say.

Perhaps most poignant for Liverpool fans are Klopp’s words on the talent he inherits from Brendan Rodgers. Sure there are quips that will hit the headlines, but how about Klopp’s assertion that success shouldn’t take nearly as long as his dramatic work at BVB.

From JPW on Merseyside:

“We did in Dortmund what we had to do, to improve the players, to work for a common idea of play. That is what we did and its the same thing we want to do here. They are not the same players of course,” Klopp told NBC Sports ProSoccerTalk. “These players from Liverpool are better, more experienced in some ways and younger in other cases. Everything is okay, I am here. I am not here only because LFC was calling. I believe in the potential of this team. Four or five strikers you can work with when they are not injured, midfielders is really good, defenders experienced and very young, goalkeeper is really good. Everything is there.”

Everything. A powerful word and one that doesn’t get lost in translation. Liverpool has a batch of world class talent, and Klopp’s is anxious to organize it in world class fashion. Strap in, Anfield.

CONCACAF Cup preview: Ultimate guide to USMNT vs Mexico

Beasley, and other US veterans, have been asked to take the young guys under their wing.
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So here we go: the biggest rivalry in U.S. Soccer, the one that sends fans racing for the stadia for a glimpse of history.

It’s the U.S. and Mexico for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, and it will play out at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.

National pride is on the line, and national jobs may rightly be in jeopardy. Let’s swing through our coverage, and what’s at stake in just over 24 hours time.

The Battles

Who is the key to Saturday’s match? Is it Michael Bradley? Fabian Johnson? Andres Guardado? Will Klinsmann opt for players with Liga MX experience, stay Euro Heavy, or appease the domestic set? Read more here.

The XI

So how will Klinsmann line ’em up? JPW has his preference, some options, and a prediction of what the manager will do.

The history

What are the chances this one finds its way into the upper echelon of matches in the Mexico/U.S. rivalry? This is the company it could join.

Klinsmann’s future

The folks in the anti-Klinsmann brigade seethe with pure detestation of the USMNT boss. Any quote from him is self-serving and dishonest, any success accidental. Beat Germany or the Netherlands in friendlies on the road? Coincidental and Unimportant. Lose a friendly to Brazil? The worst thing ever.

[ MORE: The case for firing Klinsmann after a loss ]

So this match, being meaningful and testing his unbeaten mark vs Mexico, is going to be a clarion call for U.S. Soccer fans. Barring a cataclysmic loss in horrific blowout fashion, he won’t be canned. But a win will be validation for his supporters while a loss would cue a genuine hot seat. And for his detractors, already foaming at the mouth from the words of icon Landon Donovan? Kablammo.