Jamaica v United States - World Cup Qualifer

Look, an anti-soccer sermon! What, is it 1992 again?


We reached a point somewhere along our grassy-pitch way that these anti-soccer sermons are just amusing.

Whereas I once just shook my head and moved along, now I feel a bit sorry for the dinosaurs who cannot see their own extinction. I mostly just pat them on their silly and fearful heads, figuratively so, and move on.

(I have long stopped defending soccer in any passionate way; I mostly just say “You like what you like, I’ll happily do the same.” Mostly. But since it’s meatless Monday, and that always puts me in a mood … )

Seriously, I could live 1,000 years and not fully understand why anyone devotes time, energy and effort to telling the rest of us why we should not like something.  Truth is, these dated and toxic discharges of anti-soccer venom aren’t for soccer fans. This is the fearful, anti-change faction of the Baby Boomer set, writing with wounded monotony in newspapers for the only people who still read newspapers: other Baby Boomers who like to believe that 1982 might just happen all over again. Good times!

With informed content providers, this kind of thing crumbled not long after the Berlin Wall. But not for Matt Zencey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, apparently.

Ever notice these things almost always come from an older, white, male baseball lovers?  Hmmmm.  Changing world … Evolving likes and dislikes in our own, wonderful country … Baseball as metaphor for “good old days syndrome.”  … Yes! There is something there.

At any rate, Zencey’s work checked all the usual boxes:

Vast over-generalization. Check.

Factual inaccuracy. (Usually in the lack of goals, assertions that scoreless draws are far more frequent than they are. Never mind the data, my man. Carry on.)

Helpful suggestions of rule changes. Check.

Sophomoric sarcasm disguised as actual description of the game. Yup …

The teams run around for an hour and a half and if the fans are lucky, their team may – hold your breath! – score a goal or two.

Zing! Good one, dude!

Other ignorant, America-centric ideas on how to improve a sport that’s doing just fine in almost every corner of the world (including our own, I say). Got it.

Ridiculously dated references to hooliganism and tragedy (like Andres Escobar’s horrible death), obtusely uninterested in the reality that every sport comes attached to a few darker elements. Check.

Zencey did provide some nod to the game’s continued growth and popularity. That represents some improvement, at least, from the typical exercise in convenient oblivion.

Still, it hit most of the usual tone-deaf notes. (He did miss the old “enlarging the goal” tender, a staple of the 1970s era helpful suggestions from American newspaper sporties.)

Should I mention quickly that all this was written after a very entertaining match at sold-out PPL Park in the man’s hometown, where the Union fell to Sporting Kansas City? A match the former Philly Inquirer editorial board member failed to attend. (Too bad, too. It honestly was quite a match.) That fact wasn’t lost on the Brotherly Game site that went to whuppin’ on Zencey.

I suppose the only thing more cliché than anti-soccer rants is … yes, guys like me who point out the nincompoopery of it all. But, so long as I’m at it, I have one more thing to say:

By the way, dude … soccer will be around in this country far, far longer than your newspaper industry in its current incarnation. But you probably know that.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.