Three things we learned from Stoke City vs. Tottenham

1 Comment

STOKE-ON-TRENT — Tottenham Hotspur sent out a message to Leicester City.

In the words of their fans: “We are coming for you!”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

They sang that loud and proud at the Britannia Stadium on Monday as Tottenham beat Stoke 4-0 and close the gap to just five points on leaders Leicester.

[ MORE: Spurs “lions ready to pounce”

Here’s that we learned from a chilly night at Stoke.


KANE’S WORLD

In the 9th minute Harry Kane produced a moment of magic which epitomized why he is included on both the PFA’s Player and Young Player of the Year shortlist.

Kane, 22, cut inside from the right, didn’t even look up and curled in a majestic effort to the far corner. It is fast becoming his trademark and he now leads the PL in goals with 23. It is not just goals like that which make Kane such an important player. He holds up the ball and plays defensive splitting pass whenever he gets the chance to turn and look forward. We saw that in the second half when he set Danny Rose free. Kane is the complete package and, in my opinion, he is the most complete player in the PL.

If Spurs win the Premier League, Kane will win the Player of the Year. Even if they don’t he should win it. After Leicester City’s heroics this season, any of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante would be worthy winners. But we are looking at the best individual player in the PL. On current form and consistently all season, Kane has it all. I can’t see a weakness.

STOKE’S BIG THREE FALTER

When Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri don’t play well, Stoke don’t play well.

All three of their mercurial talents failed to get involved in the game on Monday and worse still, apart from Arnautovic who kept running, both Bojan and Shaqiri didn’t track back. That left Stoke woefully exposed as Alli, Lamela, Eriksen and Kane took full advantage. Ibrahim Afellay couldn’t do it all on his own.

I spoke with Stoke’s CEO Tony Scholes before the game about their new identity as a fluid, attacking team and the strides they’ve made this season under Mark Hughes. That’s all well and good but without the injured Jack Butland in goal, Giannelli Imbula overpowered by Eric Dier and the front three failing to spark, the Potters looked a shell of the team which had beaten Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium this season. They’ve now shipped eight goals in their last two PL games and their dream of securing a top six finish is fading fast.

MOMENTUM WITH SPURS

As we mentioned, during the game and after every goal, Tottenham’s fans sang “Leicester City we’re coming for you!” and they’re not wrong.

Although Leicester still have a five-point lead the top, with four games to go Spurs have momentum. They have now won four of their last five games, conceded just once and have scored 13 goals in that span. Christian Eriksen set up two goals, Dele Alli scored two and missed an open goal and Tottenham looked extremely comfortable in defense. After Leicester’s dramatic late point at home to West Ham and Jamie Vardy to miss at least one of their remaining four games, they are showing signs of cracking.

Pochettino’s men seem to be hitting top gear at the right part of the season and with their last four games they have a chance of winning all four. Spurs face West Brom and Southampton at home, plus Chelsea and Newcastle away. They have an easier run-in than Leicester who face Swansea and Everton at home, plus away trips to Manchester United and Chelsea.

Right now, Leicester won’t admit it, but they can feel the breath of Tottenham on their necks.

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

USWNT equal pay
Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
Photo by Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
Photo by Erwin Otten/Soccrates/Getty Image
Leave a comment

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.