Before we get into this, let’s establish one thing: As far soccer crises go – the type of crises that aren’t crises at all, just figurative language we foolishly lean on to describe different levels of drama – the U.S. was definitely “in crisis.” A must win game combined with open (if anonymous) dissent combined with lingering skepticism of the team’s direction? Yes, that’s a crisis, regardless of whether the game was really must win.
So ahead of the biggest game of the cycle, Tuesday’s match at Azteca, it’s worth asking: Is that team still in crisis?
I think you see where I’m going with this one, but let’s engage the exercise.
There were a number of factors that went into creating last week’s crisis. Consider this a checklist – an inventory of circumstances that need to be present for that crisis to exist:
- Poor performance in previous game – Despite Honduras’s obvious improvement, nobody was happy with the result in San Pedro Sula. Not with the late breakdown. Not with the stagnant attack. Not even with the amazing bicycle kick Juan Carlos Garcia put in before halftime that’s since been overlooked. Nobody likes spending a month staring at a “0” in the points column.
- Lingering doubts – For now, let’s set aside the Sporting News’ work and remember there were doubts before anonymous players provided the substance. Does Klinsmann’s approach work? If so, where are the results? Is the U.S. really better off under their new boss?
- Players falling like flies – Here’s the list of injuries U.S. Soccer identified when Klinsmann chose his squad: “Edgar Castillo (facial fractures), Timmy Chandler (hamstring), Steve Cherundolo (knee), Tim Howard (back), Fabian Johnson (hip), Jonathan Spector (ankle), Jose Torres (hamstring) and Danny Williams (illness).” Of the six defenders called in, three had never appeared in a World Cup Qualifier.
- High stakes – You have to win your home games, they say. Especially when you’re coming off a loss. Especially when it’s an opponent you’re expected to beat. The fear of the opposite – what the world would be like if they lost – fueled Friday’s urgency.
- The fuse – No denying: Monday’s report turned up the heat on the team. Some said that was a good thing, that it forced the team to focus, but if Friday went bad, that feature would have stayed in focus. “These are the reasons why they’re losing.”
Now let’s get our minds back on Mexico. Come Tuesday, now many of these elements will still exist?
- Performance – Scoreboard says? Status: Gone
- Linger doubts – One night can’t eliminate one-and-a-half years of anxiety. Add a result in Mexico to Friday’s win? Then you’ll have something. Status: Still around
- Player fitness – The big concern here wasn’t the injuries. It was the solution. What options did Klinsmann have? Friday looked like a decent one. Status: Gone, maybe
- High stakes – There’s a difference between intense and high stakes. Azteca will be intense, but if the U.S. loses that game, they’ll be fine. Everybody knew the U.S.’s final round schedule was front loaded. Three points in as many games is workable. Status: Gone
- That fuse – Winning in Colorado doesn’t mean those critiques were unfounded. And it doesn’t mean they go away. But it makes them less important. Now the team has something to offset those concerns. Winning does wonders, etc. Status: Defused.
Even the best teams can find themselves in a faux crisis. Who knows when the U.S. will find one again. But faced with the biggest adversity of the Klinsmann era, the team responded.
If I remember my Wargames correctly, the military use a threat readiness/alert system called DEFCON. “1” means we’re on the verge of nuclear war. When Kim Jong-un’s having beer on the White House porch, we’re definitely at “5”.
Sitting second in the standings with three points through two games, let’s take the U.S.’s DEFCON from 2 to 5. Everybody can chill out.
This crisis is over, but let’s conjure our inner cynic: “I can already see the next one.”
Three total hours of football.
One goal in total.
Yeah, we’d say Saturday’s Premier League matches are waiting for a breakthrough or three.
Southampton 0-0 Hull City — STREAM (NBCSN)
The Tigers registered the first three shots of a testy game, but are yet to find the goal which will worry Swansea City ahead of Sunday.
Sunderland 0-0 Bournemouth — STREAM (CNBC)
Artur Boruc has several saves for the Cherries as Sunderland works hard to avoid becoming the first relegated club of the Premier League season.
West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Leicester City — STREAM
Vardy punished Pulis’ plans when Leicester took advantage of a poor back pass from Allan Nyom. Shinji Okazaki sent Vardy on goal, and the striker hit to the near post to beat a splayed Ben Foster.
Stoke City 0-0 West Ham United — STREAM
Winner goes top half which, suffice it to say, is not the way either side envisioned 2016-17 playing out.
Four Premier League games are coming your way on Saturday.
[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]
Relegation haunted Sunderland host Bournemouth knowing they could be relegated with a defeat and other results going against them. Hull, who hover just above the relegation zone head to Southampton, while Stoke City welcome West Ham to the bet365 and West Brom welcome Leicester in a Midlands derby.
You can see every goal as it goes in on Premier League Goal Rush by clicking on the link below.
[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]
For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being very similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.
The feature game this weekend on “Goal Rush” will be Southampton and as goals and incidents occur around the league, you will be transported to the action as it happens.
More info is available here, plus the schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below. You can stream each game live by clicking on the links below or above.
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Hull City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sunderland vs. Bournemouth – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. West Ham – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Leicester City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
Fresh from the announcement that Tottenham will play all of their home games in the 2017-18 season at Wembley Stadium, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has shared his thoughts on the years ahead for Spurs.
[ MORE: Spurs’ US connection continues ]
He is far from positive about Spurs temporarily moving across north London to Wembley while their new 61,000 capacity stadium, on the site of their current White Hart Lane home, is finished.
Wenger, 67, spoke about Spurs’ stadium move ahead of the final North London Derby at the old White Hart Lane on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and gave his rivals a little advice after he oversaw Arsenal’s move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006.
“Much more [difficult] than you imagine it,” Wenger said. “First of all because you face financial restrictions, like we did. Although it might be less in the future because we have more income. Secondly as well because you don’t feel at home like you were before. And you need to recreate a kind of history to feel comfortable and to feel that you play at home. I would say [it takes] two years.”
With Spurs on the verge of finishing above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years (and the first time since Wenger has been at the club) the power struggle in north London has never been closer. Even if Wenger doesn’t want to admit it…
Yes, it will take them time to adjust to their new stadium when they move in as planned for the 2018-19 season but in the meantime Spurs’ record at Wembley has been appalling this season. Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have won just one of the five games they played there with two defeats in the UEFA Champions League as they played their group stage game at the home of English soccer.
Aside from the obvious difficulties of moving from their atmospheric and historic current home at White Hart Lane, there are some pretty cool plans for Spurs to say farewell to their home of 118 years.
Perhaps the coolest is that every season ticket holder this season will receive a key chain which shows off blades of grass from the final White Hart Lane pitch.
With a busy week behind us it’s time to stock of who the stars players in the Premier League are.
[ MORE: Power Rankings archive ]
Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.
Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.
- Dele Alli (Tottenham) – Up 1
- Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – Up 3
- Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – New entry
- Marcus Rashford (Man United) – Up 9
- Vincent Kompany (Man City – Up 14
- Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – Down 4
- Leroy Sane (Man City) – Down 3
- Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – Down 2
- Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Down 6
- Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham) – Even
- Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – New entry
- Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace) – Down 5
- N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – Down 1
- Diego Costa (Chelsea) – New entry
- Harry Maguire (Hull City) – Up 1
- Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham) – Down 1
- Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) – New entry
- Josh King (Bournemouth) – New entry
- Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea) – New entry
- David De Gea (Man United) – Even