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.”
MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich fans were unhappy with the price of tickets for their team’s match at Anderlecht in the Champions League.
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The fans held banners during Wednesday’s game saying, “Are your necks not full? Is your greed now finally satisfied?”
A Bayern fan group, Club Nr. 12, issued a statement saying Anderlecht had made 85 percent of the tickets available to the German club’s fans priced at 100 euros ($118).
“Even by the standards of the generally high-priced Champions League, this represents a new dimension for a first-round game,” said the statement, which thanked Bayern for supplementing the tickets so fans had could pay 70 euros ($82.50).
Many Bayern fans avoided the trip to Brussels altogether, while 91 percent of more than 2,500 Club Nr. 12 members said in a survey that ticket prices were “completely unacceptable.”
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Anderlecht spokesman David Steegen told The Associated Press that Bayern fans were charged “exactly the same price” as home fans who bought single tickets to the game. He said fans who bought a three-game Champions League bundle were offered a reduction.
Both Premier League sides fell in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League play, but for one side the result didn’t effect their progression into the next round.
[ MORE: Ex-Brazil forward Robinho handed nine-year prison sentence ]
Arsenal dropped a 1-0 result to Cologne, however, the Gunners still moved into the Round of 32 after their Group H counterparts, Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov settled for a scoreless draw.
Meanwhile, Everton’s 2017/18 woes continued on the day as the Toffees suffered a brutal 5-1 defeat at home against Serie A side Atalanta. The win secures Atalanta’s place in the knockout phase, along with fellow Group E club Lyon — who also won on Thursday.
AC Milan put up five goals of its own in a convincing win against Austria Wien, while Lazio, Nice and Red Bull Salzburg were among the other sides to move into the next round after picking up the necessary results.
Below are all of the scores from Thursday’s Europa League action.
Astana 2-3 Villareal
Konyaspor 1-1 Marseille
Rosenborg 0-1 Real Sociedad
Lazio 1-1 Vitesse
Viktoria Plzen 2-0 Steaua Bucuresti
Lokomotiv 2-1 Copenhagen
Zenit 2-1 Vardar
Red Bull Salzburg 3-0 Vitoria
Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Hertha Berlin
BATE 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
Ostersunds 2-0 Zorya
Koln 1-0 Arsenal
Nice 3-1 Zulte Waregem
Lugano 1-0 Beer-Sheva
Ludogorets 1-2 Istanbul
Braga 3-1 Hoffenheim
AEK 2-2 Rijeka
AC Milan 5-1 Austria Vienna
Lyon 4-0 Apollon
Maccabi Tel Aviv 0-2 Slavia Praha
Sheriff 1-0 Zlin
Partizan 2-1 Young Boys
Skenderbeu 3-2 Dynamo Kyiv
Everton 1-5 Atalanta
Former Brazil international Robinho has been sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of rape on an Albanian woman back in 2013.
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At the time, Robinho was playing for Serie A side AC Milan.
The court decision came down on Thursday after the 33-year-old forward had failed to attend any court hearings in Italy, where the crime reportedly took place.
Robinho is believed to have acted in the crime with five other Brazilians, to which their whereabouts are unknown to this point.
Reuters has reported that Robinho is entitled to up to two appeals and “Italy would only launch extradition proceedings once this legal process is exhausted.”
The Brazilian is known for his club playing days at AC Milan and Manchester City, among other clubs in addition to his time with the Selecao. Robinho took part in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups with Brazil.
- West Ham is winless in last six against Leicester
- Jamie Vardy has two goals, two assists in last 4 games vs. West Ham
- Hammers have nine points through first 12 matches
West Ham United will host Leicester City from the London Stadium on Friday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as David Moyes and Co. look to climb out of the relegation zone.
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Moyes and West Ham currently sit 18th in the Premier League through 12 games, and will be hoping to see an improvement in their form with the potential returns of Andre Ayew and Marko Arnautovic.
The Hammers are without Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Michail Antonio, as well as James Collins.
The Foxes are winless in their last two matches, and coming off of a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City over the weekend. Robert Huth and Matty James remain sidelined for Puel’s group, but otherwise, the club is relatively healthy.
What they’re saying
West Ham boss David Moyes on turning the team’s form around: “We need to give the supporters something to shout about and something that looks half decent, and then they will support us. I want everyone to be together. I am not aware of the problems before I came, I was a bit surprised when I heard (chanting against the board). “I want them behind us to give us a chance of winning.”
Leicester’s Claude Puel on confidence in his players: “I have a good feeling with the players; they listen, they work hard on the pitch and I feel their ambition. We will see in the next games, with a good adaption and rotation, to see them approach it with a positive attitude.”
The Hammers are missing several key attacking pieces, including Hernandez, which will surely make the defensive task easier for Leicester. The Foxes attack hasn’t been at its finest, but they’ll be facing a West Ham back line that allows over two goals per game (25 in 12 matches).
West Ham 1-3 Leicester