Tottenham’s incredible new stadium a game changer

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LONDON — The looks on the faces of Tottenham’s fans everywhere told the story. They were home.

“This place is f****** amazing!” exclaimed a Spurs fans as he strutted down the gleaming terrace steps leading towards the pitch with a sausage roll hanging out of his mouth. It is. It truly is.

Those moments of awe happened as trains pulled into stations nearby and fans appeared around the corner of narrow north London streets to see the mammoth structure for the first time. This venue is a game changer in world soccer.

The stunning new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium cost close to $1.3 billion to build and after two years away from their spiritual home on White Hart Lane, Spurs’ first team played a proper home game there against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. The delay to open the stadium due to technical issues wasn’t ideal, but every fan said the same thing: it was worth the extra wait.

After a near two-year hiatus with games played at Wembley, fans could now go to their regular bars and eateries on matchdays. Despite the delay to opening the stadium due to technical issues, every single fan said the same thing: it was well worth the wait.

People recognized eachother in the street again — “how are you mate! Haven’t see you in ages” — as rituals before a Spurs game are now back to normal.

Increasing the capacity from 36,000 to 62,000 is a game-changer for Tottenham, and the extra revenue from matchdays should help them to further kick on and challenge England and Europe’s elite. Chairman Daniel Levy, the mastermind behind this stadium, was beaming with pride before the game. His vision is complete and his legacy intact. Spurs can now compete from a position of strength.

Only Manchester United’s Old Trafford has a larger capacity in the Premier League, and this stadium is breathtaking in every aspect. There is still work to do to upgrade the local train station and other parts of the infrastructure, but this stadium is a catalyst to improve all of that and much more.

It is striking just how many special features it has compared to the most recent new stadium built in the Premier League, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium which was constructed back in 2006. Of course, West Ham’s London Stadium home was converted from the 2012 Olympic Stadium to a soccer stadium and the issues with that have been well-documented.

Spurs’ new home is built for the fans, with the fans in mind, and they are still close to the pitch and in steep stands, just like they were at the old White Hart Lane. With the 17,000 capacity South Stand (the largest single stand in British soccer) designed with Borussia Dortmund’s famed ‘Yellow Wall’ in mind, it has x-factor after x-factor.

The noise from the South Stand was incredible throughout.

There is a sense of Americanization in this stadium, with Spurs looking to venues in the U.S. as to the best way to build the 65 food and drink locations and make everything as grand as possible.

With at least two NFL games to played in the new stadium each season for the next 10 years, Spurs have installed a turf field which sits underneath the current grass field. The latter can be rolled out in three sections in under an hour by pressing a button, while there are also NFL locker rooms specifically for NFL teams who head to London.

The whole place is unlike anything the Premier League has ever seen before.

But aside from luxuries like having a removable pitch, the largest club store in European soccer, the first-ever microbrewery inside a stadium in the UK, the glamorous H Club on the top floor and the tunnel club which gives an exclusive view into the tunnel area outside the locker room, there is a sense that this stadium is at the heart of the community.

Before the game the ceremony included a choir from Gladesmore Community School singing a song which called for hope after the Tottenham riots of 2011. As “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur!” was belted out, there was a communal connection.

Seeing those youngster from a local school alongside Harry Kane and Co. in this gleaming stadium was an overwhelming moment. That is when it hit home what this is all about. It is about much more than a soccer stadium or having a successful team on the pitch.

On non matchdays fans can shop, eat and use the facilities, and in an area which has needed regeneration for many years, this is long overdue.

The local train station is set to be renamed Tottenham Hotspur from White Hart Lane, and Spurs will dominate the area for generations to come.

This stadium will not just shape Spurs’ future. It signals a brighter future for everyone in the surrounding area.

Speaking to fans and local business owners outside the stunning new home, they’re delighted to have the team back where they belong.

Hakeem, who was working behind the counter in a convenience store a few steps away from the new entrance, was delighted to have the team back in Tottenham: “This is a life-changing moment. The whole community has been waiting for the team to come back. More customers. More business. Great to have the stadium back.”

The game itself was a little uneventful, as these occasions with all of the fanfare usually are, but Spurs dominated and eventually broke through in the second half.

Heung-Min Son‘s shot was deflected in and the new South Stand went bonkers. Christian Eriksen tapped home another late on and that was enough to grab Tottenham a 2-0 win and boost their top four chances, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side dominant but obviously still getting settled in at their new digs.

After the game, sat in the gleaming new press area waiting for Pochettino to arrive, my mind cast back to the small, cramped office at the old stadium where his meetings with the media used to take place.

A few hours before the bulldozers rolled in to demolish the old White Hart Lane, Pochettino gave his final press conference following the 2-1 win against Manchester United on May 14, 2017. 

I had the pleasure of asking the final question, and asked Pochettino what he would remember most from the glorious old home.

“Now, it will always be the last day,” Pochettino said. “For me it was a very exciting day because I think it was perfect. The preparation of the game, the game we played well and we got the three points and on the end all the ceremony was fantastic to share with all of the legends, the people, the staff and the fans, the family. For me the most special day will always be this last day at White Hart Lane.”

The first day in the new stadium was perfect too, even if the journey to get there had been far from it.

Everyone connected with Tottenham was delighted to be back home at White Hart Lane. Where they belong.

“It is one of the best moments of my life,” Pochettino said afterwards. “It will always be in my memories and my heart.”

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10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

[READ: Pep: Domestic Treble harder than UCL]

Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

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Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

[READ: Kompany to join Anderlecht as player-manager]

“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.