TAMPA, Fla. – I just got back from Raymond James Stadium and the field there in four words:
A big ol’ mess.
There are two ways to look at this:
- The sensationalized view (a.k.a., how they’d write about this in England)
The field really is squishy-level. That is, there’s water standing on certain parts of the field, and it’s pretty much soaked all over – which is why both teams were forced to relocate their day-before practices. The United States moved over to the University of South Florida.
I took the picture you see after one particularly fierce dog-soaker of a downpour. The field will drain, I’m sure, and may even be substantially more playable now, about two hours later. The problem is that more of the same is forecast for tonight and tomorrow, so there’s every possibility that it will look exactly the same at Friday’s kickoff (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
That’s not good for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co.
It’s like this: Antigua and Barbuda is clearly overmatched here. That doesn’t make it a fait accompli; the United States could still lose or draw. It’s just that it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances, a wildly uncommon alignment of universal elements, for the night to end with any outcome beyond U.S. victory. (And probably a lopsided victory, at that.)
But listed under “extraordinary circumstance” is a field that plays more like an Everglades swamp. That’s when some goofy result, some theater of the unimaginable, inches a little closer to fruition.
- The non-sensationalized, come-down-off-the-ledge view
It won’t matter.
Klinsmann’s assembly of talent is so far and above the collection from Antigua and Barbuda, where most of the players compete in the U.S. Soccer structure’s third tier – and aren’t even doing particularly well there.
Honestly, a couple of gators could float out onto the field as torrential downpours pelted the pitifully drenched 22 – and the United States should still be able to bank their three points from the night.
Germany’s dismissal from the World Cup came as a shock to many, but one of its players received heavier scrutiny for off-the-field actions.
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Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil appeared in two of the three group stage matches for the Germans in Russia, however, his play was overshadowed by his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan prior to the start of the tournament.
The meeting between the two caused several German media outlets to criticize Ozil due to the heated relations between the two European nations.
Additionally, Ozil says his brand was affected as well, with various sponsors pulling their support due to the meeting with Erdogan.
The 29-year-old is of Turkish and German descent, which would have made him eligible to represent either country.
Ozil took to Twitter on Sunday to discuss how the ordeal has affected how the media and sponsorship has affected him over the last month.
La Liga champions Barcelona will meet Sevilla in the 2018 Spanish Super Cup in Tangier, Morocco on August 12.
[ MORE: Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool spending ]
The Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) announced the decision on Sunday, as Barca looks to kick off the 2018 season against last year’s Copa Del Rey runners’ up.
Lionel Messi and Co. defeated Sevilla, 5-0, in the 2017/18 Copa Del Rey final, giving the Blaugrana a domestic double for the first time since the 2015/16 campaign.
La Liga play opens up in Spain on August 19, however, the full fixture list will be revealed on Tuesday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a major bright spot, as expected, in his debut season in Major League Soccer.
[ MORE: Whitecaps teen Alphonso Davies nearing Bayern Munich transfer ]
The LA Galaxy striker recorded a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union, raising his goal tally to 12 on the year — which ranks fourth-best in the league.
At the age of 36, Ibrahimovic has shown he’s more than capable of producing as a veteran, but it raises the question: how amazing would he have been in MLS had he joined sooner?
Following the Galaxy’s win over the Union, Ibrahimovic joked with media, suggesting he could have had the entire country in his hand if he had arrived in the United States sooner.
“They’re lucky I didn’t come 10 years ago,” Ibrahimovic said, “because I would be the president today.”
Chelsea could very be in the market for a goalkeeper over the summer, but Leicester City’s manager insists that their number one isn’t being targeted by the Blues; or at least not yet.
[ MORE: Klopp discusses Christian Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending ]
With the Blues likely set to lose Belgium international Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid, new manager Maurizio Sarri would have to look elsewhere to solidify the team’s goalkeeping situation.
One player that has drawn significant interest after a strong World Cup performance for Denmark is Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, who played a big role in the Foxes’ 2015/16 Premier League title.
Although Schmeichel would be a viable replacement for Courtois at Stamford Bridge, Leicester boss Claude Puel says Chelsea hasn’t expressed its interest to this point.
“No, there is no problem with this,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports. “There is a lot of speculation at this moment, it is normal.
“I think he [Ward] can bring more competition to the squad and more possibilities. It is a good thing to have competition between players in the squad to develop desire.
“It gives good focus and concentration.”
The Foxes recently brought in young Liverpool keeper Danny Ward, which raised further questions about the future of Schmeichel at Leicester.