Abby Wambach FBL-KOR-USA-FRIENDLY

U.S. vs. Brazil on Nov. 10: National television, out-of-window matches, and an infrequent Selecao

2 Comments

After the 2011 World Cup, matches between Brazil and the U.S. Women’s National Team will never be the same, something which may explain why today’s announcement of a Nov. 10 friendly between the two sides came with the unexpected surprise of a network television appearance. As Kyle Bonn mentioned earlier, the game is going to be on NBC, but the more interesting parts of today’s announcement: the game doesn’t take place on an FIFA international match day; and it represents one of the infrequent times Brazil’s national team actually plays soccer games.

U.S. Soccer made the news official this morning, announcing the rumored November friendly will take place at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Capitalizing on the profile the teams’ rivalry has achieved in the wake of their dramatic, quarterfinal meeting at Germany 2011, the game will get a 3:30 p.m. Eastern, national television kick off.

While the game will almost assuredly lack another Abby Wambach, at-the-death equalizer, it will present a chance to get the top three finishers for FIFA World Player of the Year on the same field. Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Brazilian attacker Marta were all finalists for last year’s award.

“Over the last several years, there’s been an intense rivalry between the two countries and a series of games that have been very tightly contested, highly competitive and of course extremely dramatic,” U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni said, through U.S. Soccer. “It will be a fantastic game to finish the year off.”

It will also give the Orlando soccer community a chance to take center stage. As their local third division club (Orlando City SC) claimed this season’s USL PRO title, the city gained national attention for the multiple five-digit crowds they were able to attract to the Citrus Bowl (attendances that far eclipsed the league’s average draw). The fervency of the area’s growing soccer fanbase has led to widespread speculation the club will be among Major League Soccer’s expansion franchises as the league, currently at 19 teams, seeks to reach 24.

With the likes of Wambach, Morgan, and Hope Solo likely to join their teammates in Florida, the Brazil friendly gives Orlando another chance to shine on the soccer landscape.

“Orlando City SC is thrilled to help bring the U.S. Women’s National Team to Orlando,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins told U.S. Soccer. “Successfully hosting this match will be yet another step forward in Orlando City’s goal of being announced this year as the next Major League Soccer (MLS) Expansion Club.”

Among the players unlikely to join the U.S. in Orlando: Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Christen Press, and Ali Krieger. All four U.S. regulars play in Europe, and because this Brazil friendly is scheduled outside a FIFA reserved match date, Lyon (Rapinoe), Paris Saint-Germain (Heath), and Tyresö (Press, Krieger) will be under no obligation to release their players.

FIFA has a break scheduled for Nov. 23 through Nov. 28, and while clubs could still grant their players permission to join their national team for its game on the 10th (Tyresö, in particular), the U.S. may be left in the same position as it is for an upcoming friendly against Australia: Without it’s Europe-based talent for the visit from A Seleçao.

That the U.S. will play Brazil at all may be more notable than the match date tension. November’s will be Brazil’s sixth game of the year, a paltry number for a team ranked fourth in the world. The U.S. (ranked first by FIFA) is scheduled to play 16 times. Japan (third) is scheduled to play 15, while Germany (second) will play 20 times in 2013. Historically underfunded and borderline neglected beyond qualifying tournaments and major events, Brazil’s women’s team will get one of their infrequent opportunities to test themselves.

(Brazil did play 13 games in 2012, the same number of games as Germany. Japan played 19. The U.S. played 20 times. In the down years of 2009 and 2010, Brazil averaged 8.5 games per year.)

The last time the teams met, the U.S. won 3-0 in Japan, the teams playing in Chiba during a spring tournament. Given the lack of work Brazil gets at this point of the cycle, the result may be the same in Orlando. That will probably suit the home crowd just fine, with the Citrus Bowl potentially packing a large crowd to see the world’s top-ranked team take on one of its biggest rivals.

Atletico Madrid unveils new crest, stadium video

Leave a comment

Atletico Madrid has a new look to go with its new home (which has a name, also obviously new).

The La Liga giants will eliminate that dot of green from their badge when they hit the Wanda Metropolitano next summer.

Yep, that’s when the new stadium will open. Ideas move quickly.

[ MORE: Stoke’s Hughes likes Arsenal’s PL odds ]

The blue in Atleti’s crest is navy, and the red stripes are wider. There are still seven stars, a bear, and a strawberry tree.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Stoke’s Hughes senses Arsenal could win Premier League

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Mark Hughes manager of Stoke City looks on prior to the Premier League match between Stoke City and Burnley at Bet365 Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A longtime Manchester United player who managed two sides in London, this probably stings a bit for Mark Hughes.

The Stoke City boss has admitted he’s feeling positive about Arsenal’s chances at a run to the Premier League title this season.

[ MORE: Swans committed to Bradley ]

Hughes, 53, leads his Potters into the Emirates Stadium for a 10 a.m. EDT Saturday date with the Gunners, and knows the challenge is high.

The manager has the Potters up to ninth after a poor start to the season, and Stoke is closer to sixth than the relegation stew.

From the BBC:

“Arsenal, as a team, look in good shape and whilst we have a lot of confidence, given their form too, it isn’t a good time to play them.

“At times, Arsenal have struggled with consistency, and it has cost them, but you sense this could be their year. It’s important for us to give ourselves an opportunity to get something out of the game, we need to stay in the match and frustrate them.”

This week’s match with Arsenal kicks off a four-week run that goes Arsenal, Saints, Leicester, Liverpool, Chelsea.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Copa America trip helped convince Lodeiro of Sounders move

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 22: Nicolas Lodeiro #10 of the Seattle Sounders gets control of the ball during a match against the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the Western Conference Finals at CenturyLink Field on November 22, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Sounders won the match 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nicolas Loderio is getting set to play in the MLS Cup finals, something that only came to pass with a team visit to the United States, and the assistance of Luis Suarez.

According to Seattle Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey, he spoke with Lodeiro often in his attempts to bring the 27-year-old from Boca Juniors to Major League Soccer. The moment that swayed him was a trip to the US. A business trip.

With Uruguay competing in the Copa America Centenario, it allowed the two to speak more frequently, but when the Uruguayan became frustrated with his own handle of the native language, a friend stepped in to help. He asked national teammate Suarez to help translate, and thus the transfer came to pass.

“You don’t have body language, it’s harder than it is straight to the face and so he just got frustrated that he couldn’t understand everything that I’m saying,” Lagerwey told MLSSoccer.com’s radio show. “And so he says, ‘Hold on, speak to my friend,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ and I have no idea what’s happening. And Luis Suarez gets on and says, ‘Hi, this is Luis Suarez, how are you?’ And I’m like, ‘Morning, Mr. Suarez, how are you?’ And he was our translator.”

Lodiero has been a revelation for the Sounders since joining in the summer. A creative force all season, the Uruguayan has scored four goals in five playoff matches, bursting onto the national scene on the biggest stage.

“It was just funny. Nico and I, we talked fairly regularly during the process, in part because it took four months for the thing to play out,”  “And he was in the US for the Copa America with Uruguay, obviously, and in hindsight that ended up being a big deciding factor for him, because he brought his wife and his little son and they got to see America and I think liked it and developed a comfort level with it. And I think that’s what ultimately pushed them to make the leap, but I was talking and Nico’s English is actually pretty, pretty good, but he isn’t always so comfortable on the phone.”

With over 50 caps for the national team, Lodeiro is a well-known presence with the Barcelona striker and his other national teammates. The two have hooked up on the field as well, with Suarez assisting Lodeiro’s fourth national team goal back in October.

Zidane’s Madrid on cusp of setting new unbeaten record

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03: Zinedine Zidane, Manager of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga  match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane is one match away from coaching Real Madrid to a new unbeaten record.

When Zidane replaced Rafa Benitez midway through last season, the inexperienced former midfield standout got off to an auspicious start with a 5-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.

Eleven months and one Champions League title later, Madrid faces Deportivo again at home on Saturday with the chance of surpassing its longest unbeaten run since the club was founded in 1902.

On Wednesday, Madrid equaled a club record of 34 games without a loss set in 1989 under coach Leo Beenhakker when it drew 2-2 with Borussia Dortmund.

“It’s important to continue to make history and continue our good run,” Zidane said after the match. “I don’t think it’s very important for me to leave my mark. What interests me the most is to continue with this great run that we’re on.”

Last season, when Real Madrid president Florentino Perez tapped Zidane to take over a struggling team, the decision smelled of desperation.

A fan favorite from his playing days as part of Madrid’s “galaticos” bunch, Zidane was promoted from coaching the reserve team to take over a side that was lurching from one embarrassing episode to the next.

Madrid’s 2015-16 campaign had started with Perez flubbing his play to sign away Manchester United goalie David De Gea. The team was then disqualified from the Copa de Rey for fielding an illegible player, and it endured a 4-0 defeat from Barcelona at home as it failed to click with Benitez.

Perez needed to make an impact move. But instead of searching for a veteran manager, he charged the unproven Zidane with turning around Madrid’s group of talented underachievers.

At first, the team remained erratic, and even looked set to bow out of the Champions League after a shocking 2-0 loss at German side Wolfsburg.

But that defeat on April 6 proved to be a catalyst. The team hasn’t lost since, recovering to claim its 11th European Cup and almost nip Barcelona for the Spanish league crown, before roaring out to lead la Liga this season.

Zidane, whose top-tier coaching experience had been limited to his stint as an assistant under Carlo Ancelotti, has now reached the half-century mark as head manager. During that 50-match period, he has overseen 37 wins, 11 draws and only two losses. That other loss came at Atletico Madrid in February.

“The players have to be congratulated. They’re the ones out on the pitch, it’s them who run, fight and dig in,” Zidane said. “We also have to thank the fans, who always get behind the team and support us. They’ve got to take some credit for what the team is achieving”.

Gifted with world-class stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, Zidane focused on getting more from Madrid’s supporting cast. He put a new emphasis on defense in his midfield by favoring Mateo Kovacic and Casemiro over flashier playmakers James Rodriguez and Francisco “Isco” Alarcon, and he has helped the little-known Lucas Vazquez blossom into an important piece of its attack.

“(Zidane) has gotten us to work hard and for things to go well for us, and that is paying off with this run of 34 unbeaten games,” defender Dani Carvajal said. “Everyone on the team has words of praise for him.”

Whereas the draw with Dortmund was disappointing because it cost Madrid a first-place finish in its Champions League group, its 1-1 stalemate earned last weekend at Barcelona tasted of victory. The “clasico” draw kept Madrid six points clear of Barcelona at the top of the Spanish table.

After it plays Deportivo, Madrid heads to Japan for the Club World Cup.

If Zidane sets the new club mark, his next goal would be the milestone held by Barcelona under counterpart Luis Enrique, whose 39-game unbeaten run was ended by Madrid last April.