The Premier League season has begun and there have already been a few upsets here and there on the opening weekend (ahem, Villa) but plenty of results went as expected.
This time of year also means we will be rolling out plenty of new series’ at ProSoccerTalk, and here is the latest.
Premier League Power Rankings.
In case you’re new to our Power Rankings and don’t know how they work, here’s a quick refresher. Basically, each Tuesday we will put our neck on the line each by ranking each Premier League team by how good they really are. Forget about the official league standings. That doesn’t mean squat.
The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, great displays but still losing and plenty of other variables that the black and white of an PL standings table do not.
Chelsea: A comfortable win at a canter against newly promoted Hull City won’t have impressed José Mourinho too much, but positive signs were there as Oscar and Hazard linked up well. (1-0-0)
ManchesterUnited: Everyone has written David Moyes’ men off… then they go and hammer Swansea and the doubters disappear. Great start for United. (1-0-0)
Manchester City: A resounding home win over 10-man Newcastle was to be expected. Manuel Pellegrini’s side will grow into themselves this year. great defense plus added offensive weapons equals success. (1-0-0)
Tottenham:Not the most inspiring display against a poor Palace side. But Andre Villas-Boas side have a new midfield solidity I really like. Just above Arsenal and Liverpool early on. (1-0-0)
Liverpool: Created chances galore against Stoke, but they nearly paid the price for their wastefulness in the 1-0 win. If Suárez does stay a concerted push for Champions League is on the cards. (1-0-0)
Arsenal:They need new signings, and they need them now. Poor performance against Villa where everything went wrong. Two penalties conceded and a red card. But hardly vintage Arsenal before that. (0-1-0)
Everton: An exciting start to the season. Not many teams go to Norwich and get something but they had to work for this. Great going forward, suspect at the back. Roberto Martinez’ tactics used at Wigan are certainly surfacing again. (0-0-1)
Swansea: A hiding from the reigning Champions on opening day isn’t a true reflection of the Swans. But they do need some extra cover in defense before the end of the window. New striker Wilfried Bony is a fine player. (0-1-0)
Southampton: A great opening day win at West Brom for the perennial slow starters. With Italian international striker Pablo Osvaldo joining for a club record $22 million on Monday, the Saints are marching up the rankings. (1-0-0)
West Ham: An routine win for the Hammers against a Cardiff side devoid of ideas going forward. Sam Allardyce’s men were direct and their wingers gave the Bluebirds plenty of issues. Solid start. (1-0-0)
Fulham: Bit of a smash and grab win for Fulham at the Stadium of Light on opening day. But they’ll take it. Martin Jol’s men have quietly added some good players, Scott Parker will be a good buy. (1-0-0)
Aston Villa: The Villans played really well at the Emirates. They rode their luck at times and Brad Guzan was in tremendous form to thwart Arsenal, but a confidence boosting win to start the season always helps. (1-0-0)
Norwich: They had a real go against Everton but looked a bit short in midfield and were over run by Fellaini and Barkley. Chris Hughton may need to strengthen there. (0-0-1)
Newcastle: Poor display from Alan Pardew’s men against City. But what can you do when your 2-0 down and down to 10 men at the Etihad at half time? Regroup and go again for the Magpies. (0-1-0)
West Brom: Bit of a blah performance from Steve Clarke’s side. The Baggies were out-possessed by Saints and were definitely second best. Another top striker is needed at the Hawthorns. (0-1-0)
Stoke:They could have snatched a late point at Anfield but Walters fluffed his lines. The Potters will be solid as always, but I struggle to see where the goals will come from. (0-1-0)
Sunderland: It will take time for Paolo Di Canio’s 10 new signings to gel. They looked great in spells vs. Fulham but gave up a sloppy goal and paid the price. Another team who will struggle to score. (0-1-0)
Hull: Despite going 2-0 behind in the first half, acquitted themselves well and stuck to the task. Hull won’t be anything special, but with two solid banks of four they can grind out 1-0 wins at home and pick up draws on the road. (0-1-0)
Cardiff: I worry for Cardiff. They’ve spent big money this summer but I’m not sure if it’s on the right players. Against West Ham there was no cutting edge. Another forward is needed. (0-1-0)
Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway’s men battled hard at Selhurst Park against Spurs, but apart from a few flurries near the end they didn’t look like threatening. The Eagles need a top striker. (0-1-0)
Mike Francesa rants about Sports Illustrated’s Copa America coverage, Lionel Messi cover
Clueless clown Sports talk host Mike Francesa is known for being a crotchety, opinionated old man who has trouble adapting to changing times.
He’s had plenty of sparkling moments where he displays his ignorance room to grow when it comes to the world outside of New York sports, such as his knowledge of the Catholic hierarchy or his love for synergistic network promotion. He is the Tommy Wiseau of sports broadcasting.
I got my SI, and the cover is “Summer of Soccer.” Where is the summer of soccer going to be? I have no idea. Now, I know I get accused of knowing nothing about soccer, because I don’t. I know absolutely zero about soccer, and that’s more than I want to know. Sorry! Just being honest. It’s a little late for me and soccer.
So…uh…why are you talking about it then?
On the eve of ‘Copa America’ SI has how many pages in its magazine this week…1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…11…pages on this event. 11 pages, and I can’t find anybody who’s ever heard of it. 11 pages…you gotta be kidding me! No wonder they can’t give them away. This is a magazine that, as a child, I used to read it from cover to cover.”
So Mike thinks magazines don’t sell because they cover soccer, and he thinks that because he never read about soccer as a child, he shouldn’t have to read about that dang sport now.
He proceeds to then ask his cohost/producer/sidekick if he’d ever heard of Lionel Messi, to which his cohost/producer/sidekick sheepishly says he’s heard of him but only by his last name. Let’s just skip that part.
I’m sure to soccer fans this is an enormous event, which God bless them, I have no issue with. But mainstream America is not paying…doesn’t even know…if I go out and poll the newsroom, no one’s ever heard of this event. My guys in here didn’t even know what it was…nor have I! Nobody’s ever mentioned it. Has anyone ever called you [producer] to promote the Copa America on my show? [he says no]. If you’re going to promote something in sports you’re going to do it on this show. Bottom line is no one’s ever done that.
Guys, we should all just go home, we forgot to promote soccer on Francesa. Fuggetaboutit.
He then stumbled through reading what the Copa America actually is and what it entails, with an overly forced exasperated tone just to prove how frustrated he is with Sports Illustrated. Shame on them! Oh, and in this part he calls FIFA “Fie-fuh,” confuses the Olympics with an actual team that’s playing, and thinks it will be played in France. Yawn. Let’s wrap this up.
To spend 12 pages in SI on that? I mean, listen, I understand there are people here who love soccer, and they’ll be glued to it, and watch it on TV, which I understand, but man, how is that going to be part of mainstream America? I don’t get it.
You know, I don’t get it either. We should all just go home. Go home everyone! Fun’s over, we’ve been found out.
I left out the part where he calls Sports Illustrated “a sad reminder of the of a different world.” Ironic considering who it’s coming from.
For the record, callers lit Francesa up after this, so some justice was served. If you can’t get enough of the Francesa soccer shenanigans, check out this MLS read he attempts to get through, which takes him two and a half minutes and our hero realizes that NYCFC doesn’t have a “nickname” and that David Villa is pronounced like Pancho Villa. Stuff of legends.
“I asked Chris (Canetti) if I could speak with him today and I explained to him the challenge of being away from my family and how we all want the best for Houston Dynamo,” Coyle said. “I want to wish all members of the staff, from owner Gabriel Brener to president Chris Canetti to general manager Matt Jordan, everyone has been such a source of support, along with the players and the technical staff. I’d like to thank the Dynamo supporters, who have been outstanding. We have a brilliant club, and I have no doubt success is just around the corner.”
The Dynamo went 14W-21L-11T during his reign, but have also been severely lacking in talent. The long delay from acquiring Cubo Torres to getting him on the pitch was one of the many things that frustrated progress in Houston.
Coyle is best known for his time with Bolton Wanderers, though that ended early in a Championship season following relegation. Houston is 3W-7L-2T this season, and has Vancouver up next.
Wade Barrett and a pair of Dynamo assistants will lead the club in the interim.
Darlington Nagbe was the star against Ecuador, giving the United States the late 1-0 win in Frisco. There wasn’t much to take away from the match, but one attacking setup certainly performed better than the other, and that was the biggest talking point.
1 – When the US plays good defense, it has a creativity problem.
This isn’t anything new, as teams who sit back obviously will have less of the ball. But this isn’t exactly that. The US defended quite well through the first 45 minutes, and they held the majority of the possession, but they failed to do much with it. It resulted in…
First-half expected goals…
– #USMNT: 0.11 (on 2 shots) – Ecuador: 0..09 (on 1 shot) 😴
2 – Does the Pulisic-Wood-Nagbe lineup have more to offer?
The United States began with Clint Dempsey isolated up front, supported by Gyasi Zardes and Graham Zusi, with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones sitting deep. That lineup was utter trash in the attacking half, producing one good chance in the first half which Zardes flubbed. When Klinsmann switched things up soon after halftime, bringing on Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe, and Alejandro Bedoya, the attack began to show life. It certainly helped that all those substitutes were placed in their natural positions, something not always a given for Klinsmann. This may give the US manager a good look at the more creative setup, and could bode well for the aforementioned players heading into the Copa America. There are obvious downsides to this lineup, such as lack of experience, but it might be worth the risk, especially with those players much more likely to be contributors in 2018 given their age.
3 – Christian Pulisic can actually be a useful piece this summer
On for the final half-hour, the young Borussia Dortmund winger provided positive touches along the left flank. He created a few opportunities for Bobby Wood and Graham Zusi, a promising development to push back against the “he’s not ready” crowd. Pulisic was electric down the left, and was vital in the push the last 20 minutes. It’s just 20 minutes, but it’s a promising small sample size.
The second half, however, was straight-up dominant. The lack of finish was troubling, but Darlington Nagbe took care of that. The Portland Timbers man not only scored, but also piled vindication on supporters who couldn’t wait to see him up high, and Michael Bradley deep.
And Christian Pulisic, well, he’s a swoon-worthy talent.
Brad Guzan — 8 — Didn’t have a ton to do, but did it very well. A welcome improvement from the Aston Villa keeper.
Fabian Johnson — 6 — Probably deserves a 7, but that missed trap of a Jermaine Jones cross was just so ugly.
Steve Birnbaum — 6 — Very shaky early, but settled into the game.
John Brooks (off 78′) — 7 — Played very well after a weak opening 10 minutes or so. Still takes chances like the center back version of Jermaine Jones, but those chances came off well on Wednesday.
DeAndre Yedlin — 6 — Hit and miss from the right back, who had a heck of a task in dealing with Jefferson Montero. Still, the defensive improvement is impossible to ignore.
Kyle Beckerman (off HT) — 6 — Might’ve picked up an injury. Hard-nosed as usual, but feels like he’s a single lost step away from not fitting the bill.
Jermaine Jones (off 64′) — 6 — Playing as an attack-minded mid with some defensive responsibilities may be the role he was meant to play, and his early second half was promising before subbing off for Bedoya.
Michael Bradley — 7 — No surprise that he — and the States — thrived once Klinsmann moved the Toronto FC man deeper in the midfield.
Gyasi Zardes (off HT) — 5 — The effort was there, as were the runs. The kid works hard and has a brain for the game, but his first touch betrayed him once again. Should’ve been 1-0.
Graham Zusi (off, 88′)– 7 — You know what you’re getting with Zusi, and the Sporting KC man was one of several players who played an assist-worthy ball in this one. Bedoya tapped his 72nd minute pass just wide of the far post.
Clint Dempsey (off 63′) — 5 — Will be kicking himself for a poor first touch on an early second half cross from Bobby Wood. Didn’t get much service in the first half, but did play a great ball to Zardes.
Darlington Nagbe (on HT) — 8 — This guy. We all knew he had it in him, even Klinsmann after a long enough wait. He was the best player on the pitch in the second half.
Bobby Wood (on HT) — 6 — Missed a few key chances, but set up Nagbe’s winner.
Christian Pulisic (on 63′) — 7 — Dangerous, lively, and that touch. More of him, please.
Alejandro Bedoya (on 64′) — 6 — Should’ve scored, but didn’t. Also probably should’ve started, so we’ll cut him a bit of slack.
Matt Besler (on 78′) — 6 — Totally fine, but Ecuador rarely tested during his tenure.