Jamaica v United States - World Cup Qualifer

US Soccer Fans – ditch that World Cup drama and revel in the positives

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Drama is something that most crave like crack and, within American soccer, the gluttony for hubbub has been at an all time high since World Cup 2014 began staring us in the face.

While it’s been years of anticipation the drama truly began to spike six months ago during the World Cup draw that placed the Yanks in Group G alongside Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

The damned Group of Death,’ was the collective sigh as shoulders slumped and heads dropped.

The fear was reasonable that this National Team was heading full throttle towards the resting place of the 1998 World Cup squad — three losses, one goal scored and last place in the tournament. It was hard to see the light. Ghana is the World Cup nemesis of the US, Portugal have mighty Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany could very well win the tournament. Walking on water might just be easier than getting out of this group.

Over the coming months the drama increased ten-fold: Clint Dempsey was a shell of his former self on loan at Fulham, Timmy Chandler continued to shirk his US commitment with the glee of a high school tease, Michael Bradley made the controversial move to swap Serie A for MLS, Omar Gonzalez shape-shifted into a deer in headlights, Jermaine Jones couldn’t keep his discipline in a straight-jacket and barns weren’t built big enough for Jozy Altidore to hit…

And just when things couldn’t get more bleak, Jurgen Klinsmann made the absolutely heinous decision to cut Landon Donovan, which went down like whiskey on top of tequila catapulting the US collective into a vertigo-inducing stupor that somehow convinced many of us that 18-year-old Julian Green was either a) the reason why Donovan was cut or b) the player who will serve as the US all-time leading scorer’s immediate successor in Brazil. (Note: he’s neither).

Of course, we Americans are not alone in acting out this version of the Real Housewives of International Soccer. The same thing goes down in Italy, Spain, Brazil and every other country in anticipation of the World Cup. We want to do well, so we dramatize. But look on the bright side, at least we’re not Mexico!

See, didn’t that feel better? Nothing like kicking El Tri between the legs to lighten the mood. Because truth be told, it’s not all doom and gloom for the USMNT and to ensure you don’t wander off into a dark place over the next week and a half leading up to the games, here are a few bullet-points of positivity to keep in your back pocket:

  • Nothing To Lose, All To Gain: That has to be the motto when it comes to the US and Group G. It’s a hard freaking draw, yes, but there’s no where to go but up. Getting a point off of Ghana, Portugal or Germany would be great. Taking all three points, momentous. And it can definitely happen. Believe.
  • Jozy Knows No Slump: Did you watch him last summer? Dude scores once and can go unconscious for extended periods of time. So stop worrying about some ‘slump’.
  • Klinsmann’s Won The World Cup: That’s no small feat and that experience allows Jurgen, the master motivator, to say all the right words to get the boys fired up.
  • Bradley Has No Ceiling: Is it just me or does Michael Bradley get better every time he steps foot on the pitch?
  • Cameron-Besler Is Legit: Stop worrying about a center-back partnership because Cam and Bes have it on lock. Yes, they need 1-2 more matches together but they’re our best defensive leaders, mentally sound and dialed in.
  • Deuce Face: ‘Nuf said.
  • Ghana’s Not That Good: We need to stop over-hyping this Ghana squad. I’ve watched them play, they’re not that good. We should get a result here.
  • American Outlaws: Don’t know who they are? Use the Google and find out. Then enlist.
  • Berti’s Here: Berti Vogts was named special advisor by Klinsmann just a few months ago and with good reason – the guy is a master tactician. Which is exactly the trait where Klinsy could use some help. Credit to the man, though, he recognized the mistake and remedied it. Yes, Bogts also coaches Azerbaijan and it meant we had to play them in a friendly but who cares?! He’s ours in Brazil and he’s brilliant.
  • The Rise of Fabian: Said it before, I’ll say it again – Fabian Johnson is a weapon. Easily one of the US’s best players and, from all accounts, he’s poised to explode down in Brazil.
  • Howard and Guzan: Brick walls are tough to get through.
  • Ronaldo Is Struggling: Look, I’ll be in Manaus for that game and CR7 better damn well play. But judging from reports I’m reading now, 18 days away from that match, there’s a very strong chance Ronaldo is struggling with his fitness for that match. I’m calling it now, the US wins this game.

 

Atletico Madrid unveils new crest, stadium video

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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.

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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)
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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)
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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)
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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.