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.

 

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

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Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.