Birthdays of note: Gabriel Alejandro Milito turns 31. The former Argentina, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and Independiente central defender scored 11 goals in 350 matches. Luckily, that wasn’t his job. He was on the field to keep the ball out of the back of the net, a skill at which he excelled. He retired earlier this summer, citing mental and physical exhaustion.
Ahead on the blog today*: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying returns; other World Cup qualifiers around the globe; the Houston Dynamo-Real Salt Lake match and What It All Means; a (very brief) MLS weekend in action; Steve Davis’ deep thoughts on the European debt crisis**
Big Important Stories of the Day: U.S.-Jamaica. Can the Yanks get three points in the Caribbean? Or will The Office turn into da Fortress, mon? Does Clint Dempsey start? Can the depleted Americans thrive? Will Kyle Beckerman break out into some Buju Banton at midfield in the 60th minute?
(Also, don’t sleep on Antigua and Barbuda going into Guatemala, either. Those results are perhaps more important for the future of Group A than the Stars and Stripes-Reggae Boyz tilt.)
RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day): Sebastian Lletget
If the MLS playoffs started today:
Columbus at Chicago
Sporting Kansas City vs. Wildcard winner
New York Red Bulls vs. Houston
Vancouver Whitecaps at L.A. Galaxy
San Jose vs. Wildcard winner
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle
PST background noise while blogging today: Bob Marley. But only until the start of the U.S.-Jamaica game. Then it’s “Born in the USA” on repeat.
*Always subject to change; you know how it is…
** Especially subject to change; you know how it is…
Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs
Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.
Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.
But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.
Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.
And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.
He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.
Voted “the best right back” in Europe between 1962-64, the former England and Blackpool captain also had a successful management and broadcasting career.
Armfield was a member of the 1962 and 1966 World Cup squads, though a toe injury kept him from his place in the starting lineup when England won the tournament.
He spent his entire playing career with Blackpool before managing Bolton Wanderers to promotion and Leeds United to the European Cup Final, righting the ship after Brian Clough’s infamous spell in charge of the club.
There’s a statue outside Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, and the club legend has a stand named after him inside the venue.
While Zach’s night was certainly a memorable one for many reasons, it was Julie that arguably had the better performance — which included a goal in the 19th minute off of a close-range volley.
The USWNT had trailed through 14 minutes, but a combination of goals from Alex Morgan and Ertz in a span of two minutes quickly erased the deficit.
For Morgan, it was her 80th goal for the Stars and Stripes.
Meanwhile, a second-half brace from teenage sensation Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn’s finish with nine minutes to play proved to be the icing on the cake for Jill Ellis’ side, who kicked off 2018 with a bang.