Champions League rapid reaction: Living up to the hype

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I would love to have strapped an EKG monitor to fans of either side during the 2013 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

It was exhausting from a neutral perspective; imagine what being a fan of that marathon would have been like?

And yet, that’s what we all hope and pray for – for the match to live up to the hype.

A game featuring two bitter German rivals, it had every storyline, every angle anyone could dream of. It was a media member’s salivary gland. It featured defection (Gotze), underdog (Dortmund), retirement (Heynckes), redemption (Bayern’s two previous losses), hometown loyalty (Lahm/Reus), past failures (Robben), validation (follow-up to the semifinals), and plenty more.

Almost always, a game with so much pre-match hype never lives up to the ridiculous expectations set by the public dissection of what will happen on and off the pitch.

Except this time, it didn’t. It did the impossible. Despite all the hype, it still made me turn off the TV and just go “…..whoa.”

The first half of the Champions League final was maybe the most bonkers 0-0 half of soccer you’ll ever watch.  Neuer and Weidenfeller both made world-class saves.  It had blasted shots, it had slicing passes, it had crunching tackles, it had face saves, it had Franck Ribery blood vessels.

The second half, though, was where it all came together. Or fell apart. Or made you want to take a nap. Depends on your point of view.

The second half featured shots, more shots (29 altogether in the match), penalties, goals that counted, goals that didn’t count, a goal-line clearance, an ankle stomp, a beautiful backheel assist, more angry Riberys, and a crying Arjen Robben.

That’s not even including the 89th minute goal that won the Champions League, erasing 3 years of personal and team heartbreak.

What saved the match from being a completely draining watch was the relatively good refereeing.  The fact Dante wasn’t sent off after his kick to the groin of Marco Reus was a bit of a head-scratcher, but then again his first yellow card was quite soft, so it evened out.  Otherwise, there can be hardly a complaint, which is wonderful to see in a game where refereeing is often at the forefront. Hats off to you, Nikola Rizzoli.

Robben said after the match, “It’s so many emotions.”  We feel you, Arjen, we feel you.

Whatever your emotion, whatever your angle towards this match, one thing is for certain: you’re going to need some sleep.

Report: Minnesota United chasing Ecuadorian national teamer

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Minnesota United may be hoping another Ibarra can cure what ails its attack.

Romario Ibarra, 23, is on the Loons’ radar according to The Athletic‘s Kristian Dyer and Jeff Rueter, who say Minnesota would like to land the Ecuadorian when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Ibarra was limited to eight matches for Universidad Católica this season as he battled through a lingering metatarsal fracture. But he’s scored against Argentina and Chile in each of his appearances for the national team, both World Cup qualifiers.

From The Athletic:

Sources say that Ibarra’s contract is unlikely to make him a designated player, leaving Quintero as the club’s sole DP. (It could depend, in part, on the size of the transfer fee.) Based on league standards, his salary will likely be drawn from Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) contract seems likely.

Ibarra’s older brother Renato plays for Club America, and has 36 caps.

Minnesota is six points outside the West’s final playoff spot, and has scored just 17 goals in 14 matches.

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal field set

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The 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is down to one non-MLS entrant after LAFC fought past Sacramento Republic’s dogged effort to make it two, twice equalizing en route to a 3-2 win.

[ MORE: TFC extends Bono ]

Louisville City won a battle of USL sides in Wednesday’s final day of fifth round action, knocking off Nashville SC by a 2-1 score.

Now attention turns to the quarterfinals, where USL champions Louisville City will face the Chicago Fire on July 18.

All four quarterfinals will be staged on that day, and the winner of Louisville-Chicago will face the winner of the duel between Philadelphia Union and Orlando City.

The other side of the bracket shows Houston Dynamo against Sporting KC, and LAFC against the Portland Timbers.

Chicago and KC have won the cup an MLS-best four times each, while Philadelphia has finished second twice.

The remaining quarterfinalists have not advanced to a USOC final.

Sprawling translated Emery interview talks PSG, Guardiola, more

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery has given a sprawling interview, translated by France Football News, in which he discusses his history and his philosophies.

The interview was conducted after Emery was dismissed by Paris Saint-Germain but before he was hired by the Gunners.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

It’s a fascinating read, with Emery going deep into his relationship with Neymar, the need for PSG to get an “A-ha” goal for its history books, and much, much more.

The interview is with Marti Perarnau, the author of “Pep Confidential,” and there are plenty of good nuggets regarding the Manchester City boss, as well as Rafa Benitez, Zinedine Zidane, PSG, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.

It’s fairly clear that Emery figured he’d be going to a new league, and he certainly seems like a guy fit for a project like succeeding Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. For one thing, he’s proud of his team’s style.

That’s something valued by the North London set, and Emery pointed out that Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid and Pep Guardiola at Man City had to fail before they succeeded.

Let me say this: PSG played well and won. Many people don’t value that enough and believe that it is easy. But what happened to us? We lacked competitiveness in important moments. Why? Because this team is not confronted with enough moments of adversity in the league. Being competitive also means being faced with adversity. One has to suffer like Simeone’s team to win. One has to suffer like Pep’s team to win in England.

My team had two basic principles: having possession and pressing. That was the basis. Having the ball, and winning it back as fast as possible. I should add a little nuance. I’m talking about having possession and not positioning because there are moments where you can win the ball through positioning, and others where moving out of position can surprise the opponent. And like Guardiola says, if you have to win with a long ball from the goalkeeper towards the striker and that the forward scores with his ass, then so be it! We work like that as well.

And here’s just a quick nugget on the importance of playmaking, and how good players make a coach look better.

During his first match against Toulouse at the Parc des Princes, we get corner. Neymar takes it quickly and Kurzawa scores. We hadn’t worked that at all with him. Afterwards, I told Neymar, “My work is limited to your strokes of genius.”

Love it. Arsenal seems like it’s in good hands. Read the full interview here.

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”